It’s a true clash of civilizations: France vs. Fox. Fox and the right have been deriding France as a left-banky, “old Europe,” weak-sister nation ever since it refused to support George W. Bush’s Iraq war. But now, in a turnaround, the French are pummeling Fox—with savage satire and threats of lawsuits, and gleefully transforming Roger Ailes’s bully boys into a bunch of Bianca-spraying surrender monkeys.
It’s Fox’s penchant for no-facts zones, not to mention its Islamophobia, that led to this fix. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said this week that she may sue Fox News over its false portrayal of her city as full of frightening “no-go zones,” where only Muslims are allowed and police dare not tread. “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced,” she said. And in the sort of dig you might expect from Russell Brand, she tweeted something about the “stigmatizing stupidity of Fox News.”
Bill O’Reilly, whose own “no-spin zone” may have inspired the equally fallacious “no-go zones,” dismissed Hidalgo’s complaints because—zut alors!—she’s a socialist.
The lawsuit, if Hidalgo goes through with it, would seem to have almost no chance of succeeding in the United States, given that libel law here requires proof of “actual malice” and Fox’s actual stupidity could fall short of that. Plus, there’s no real precedent for a city suing for libel. If, however, a suit were filed in France, where standards for proving libel are different, it could, Gawker speculates, make life a little tougher for Fox.
Whether or not Hidalgo sues, she was probably emboldened by the truly breaking news! that Fox had apologized not once but four times recently for its repeated claims that France and much of Europe are pockmarked with areas where Sharia, not local law, rules—“like a caliphate within a particular country,” as Fox’s Judge Jeanine Pirro eagerly pointed out.
Pirro was one of the apologizers, which she did almost with a smirk. She previously had “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson on her show, where he claimed that Birmingham, England, was a city-sized no-go zone and was “totally Muslim.” (In fact, the population is closer to 22 percent Muslim.) British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson “a complete idiot,” and Fox soon released a statement saying he was unlikely to appear on air again. (Emerson apologized, profusely, on his website.)