(CN) – Fox News Network did not defame a group of migrant workers in a four-minute news segment called “Manhunt at the Border” on the “Hannity & Colmes” show, a California appeals court ruled.
Jose Balzaga and six other workers filed the lawsuit. Their photos appeared on a poster that Fox showed on camera during a story about anti-immigration activist John Monti.
Monti complained to TV personalities Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes that a group of day laborers had attacked him, and showed a photo of his alleged attackers on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes.”
Balzaga and his fellow plaintiffs said Monti had called them derogatory names and had tackled and punched one of the workers who tried to hide his face from Monti’s camera.
The trial court ruled in Fox’s favor. The workers appealed, but conceded that their suit was subject to the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) rule.
However, the workers said their lawsuit should proceed because they were likely to succeed in proving their defamation claim.
Justice Haller of the San Diego-based 4th District Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ suit.
“Plaintiffs’ defamation action against Fox News is predicated on their claim that the ‘Manhunt at the Border’ caption falsely suggested that law enforcement was conducting a search for plaintiffs.”
Within the context of the entire telecast, Haller explained, Fox did not convey that impression to the public.
“As both parties recognize,” Haller wrote, “Fox News never expressly stated that law enforcement officials were conducting a manhunt for plaintiffs.
“An alleged defamatory statement is actionable only if the statement, considered within the context of the entire broadcast, could be reasonably interpreted in the manner alleged by the plaintiff,” Haller continued.