Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, has claimed that she intends to sue American television news outlet Fox News over comments made about the city. Specifically, she was referring to claims that Paris and other European cities include areas where Islamic Law is in force and where non-Muslims cannot or do not go.
Fox News has been widely mocked around the world for a number of inaccurate comments that seem designed to provoke anti-Muslim sentiments. One “expert” guest on the network recently made several such claims about the UK which were both condemned and ridiculed. Steve Emerson, who claims to be “an internationally recognised expert on terrorism,” said that Birmingham is a Muslim-only city. He also said that parts of London feature Muslim religious police who patrol the streets physically assaulting “anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.” This provoked comments from Prime Minister David Cameron, who said “This guy is clearly a complete idiot” and that “[he should] look at Birmingham and see what a fantastic example it is bringing people together of different faiths and different backgrounds and building a world-class brilliant city”
In the light of these kinds of comments, the channel has recently been accused of scaremongering and of attempting to stir up hatred of Muslims in ways that have been generally considered absurd. However, Hidalgo’s comments represent the first time the mockery has turned into actual threats of legal action. Rumours that the City of Birmingham may launch similar legal action have been confirmed as false.
Hidalgo’s ire was drawn by comments suggesting the city of Paris featured “no-go zones” for non-Muslims, and that the city felt “a bit like Afghanistan.” Hidalgo claims that this constitutes defamation of the city, saying “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced.”
Based on this, Hidalgo expressed the opinion that “When we’re insulted, and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed.”
Fox News has largely dismissed the idea of this lawsuit. Michael Clemente, the network’s executive vice president, described the idea of the lawsuit as “a bit misplaced.” The highest-rated host on Fox, Bill O’Reilly, also commented on the lawsuit as part of his regular programme. O’Reilly said that the idea was “ridiculous.” He went on to make comments such as “the mayor is a socialist,” “this is an attention-getter” and “Fox News isn’t even seen in France.”
Legal experts are sceptical about the chances of the lawsuit’s success, partly because of international complications. Precedents suggest US courts do not recognise the concept of defamation against a city, and Fox’s limited presence in France gives limited power to French courts on the matter.