A former Fox News producer is suing the network, saying it fired him due to his “refusal to report false information,” such as concerns about harmful effects of COVID vaccines. But Fox News says Jason Donner was fired for infractions including not showing up for work — which Donner blames, ironically, on the fact that the COVID vaccine made him sick for more than a week.
Donner, who was a Capitol Hill producer, filed a lawsuit in D.C. court in September saying Fox discriminated against him “as a result of Mr. Donner speaking out against the false news stories being published by Fox News and his political affiliation.”
One of those stories came in June 2021, when Donner was assigned to run a story on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) raising questions about COVID vaccines. “Donner stated that it was dangerous to cover the story without interviewing a doctor for the opposing point of view,” the lawsuit said. “Forced to cover the press conference, Donner reported accurately on the issue and thereby debunked/fact-checked each of Senator Johnson’s claims in his required story pitch. He was praised by fellow Fox staffers for presenting the facts but raised the ire of management.”
According to a FoxNews.com article, by other reporters, on June 28 Johnson held a press conference with people “who experienced adverse reactions to the vaccines and experienced ‘refusal or reluctance’ from their doctors to acknowledge that their symptoms might be tied to the vaccine.”
Johnson said he was “pro-vaccine” but held the hearing because people who did experience ill effects were “having a hard time getting their truths communicated… without being censored.” He wrote to Pfizer and Moderna asking them to provide data about adverse reactions.
Donner had other complaints. On January 6, 2021, when in Donner’s view Fox’s on-air comments did not sufficiently condemn what his lawsuit calls an “insurrection,” he called Fox’s control room and said, “I don’t want to hear any of this f—ing sh—t on our air ever again because you’re gonna get us all killed.”
He said there were “reports of shots fired” — which was likely the sound of a police officer killing an unarmed protester.
In October 2021, Donner complained to management about Tucker Carlson’s coverage of January 6 and worked “on a story debunking the false claims.”
By 2022, Fox management said Donner was creating a “toxic environment” and needed “more self-awareness,” the lawsuit said. “Fox News’ management was pushing a far right-wing agenda in the news division, and Donner would not comply with their demands,” the lawsuit said.
In September of that year, Donner was fired, with Fox allegedly telling him it was because he was late for work and did not show up for work.
Donner said, ironically, that that’s because he had taken the COVID vaccine and had a severe adverse reaction — of the sort he didn’t want Sen. Johnson talking about without “debunking” it.
“On September 26, 2022, Donner called in sick because he was recovering from the COVID vaccine that he had recently received. Donner had received the COVID vaccine the previous week, but fell ill from it. Despite being ill, he continued to work because he did not want to leave his coworkers short-handed. Nonetheless, by September 26, 2022, he was too ill to continue to work and so he called in sick. His body gave out on him because he had kept working while ill,” the lawsuit said.
“On September 27, 2022, Donner’s supervisor… accused Donner of being irresponsible and challenged Donner’s work ethic, despite the fact that Donner worked past 9pm three nights in the preceding week while ill from the COVID vaccine. Essentially, [supervisor NuNu] Japaridze faulted Donner for calling in sick the day before when he was recovering from the COVID vaccine. The call ended with Japaridze hanging up on Donner,” the lawsuit said.
The next day, the D.C. Bureau Chief ”told Donner that he was fired because he was late for work and did not show up for work (presumably referring to September 26, 2022 when Donner called in sick),” the lawsuit said, alleging that “this was a pretextual firing based on Donner’s political views and affiliation.”
The lawsuit was filed in D.C. Superior Court, invoking the D.C. Human Rights Act, on September 27, and was moved to federal court on November 13.