Greta Van Susteren, Bill O'Reilly, and his reporter Juliet Huddy are being sued by Aviva Nash, who runs a New York-based drumming business, for their broadcasts on a scandal during which the Fox News personalities took amusingly predictable stances on both the issues of Government Services Administration spending, and of course, the idea of drumming in unison.
The stories focused on another conference put on by the Government Services Administration, whose 2011 Las Vegas conference became a famous example of totally frivolous government spending on stuff like mind-readers and commemorative coins. Nash owns Drum Café, and says in her complaint that she is a "hard working, legitimate small business owner, engaged in corporate training and team building."
According to her website, she uses group drumming exercises at corporate conferences to "revitalise and re-focus participants between presentations or before speeches or awards." And she's suing for defamation, saying she's lost business after the Fox News broadcasts.
So what did they say about her? Well, they didn't actually mention her during their July broadcasts, but they played footage of drummers on stage at a conference. Her lawyer wouldn't confirm to The Hollywood Reporter anything more than the footage Fox News showed as they discussed the purchase of $21,000 of drumsticks for a GSA conference showed Drum Café's drums. The implication from watching the video is that this is Nash at the GSA conference in question leading the group in a drumming exercise.
Here is how O'Reilly's reporter characterized the clip:
I don't even know what to say at this point. You look at that, and first of all, you didn't even see the whole thing. The whole audience was giving these little things -- they call them whackers -- and they were supposed to play to the beat and, you know, following this little hippy dippy chick, [saying] "yeaah," and half the audience was really into it... Just ask yourself viewers of O'Reilly, can you imagine sitting in an audience and this chick up there is asking you to play this beat?
O'Reilly also said "It's the same con," as the Las Vegas conference. "Hippie dippie chick" seems to be the part that really put Nash into some kind of alliterative fury -- her statement calls this "debasing, demeaning, humiliating, degrading, defaming and denigrating."
Meanwhile, here's Van Susteren's conversation with Congressman Jeff Denham about it all [transcript via Lexis Nexis]:
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you spend $21,000 on drumsticks? How many did they buy?
DENHAM: Four thousand sets of drumsticks.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what was the purpose of the drumsticks?
DENHAM: Well, the audience was playing along with the drummers that you saw.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's almost impossible! I mean -- I mean, it's -- it's, like, unthinkable! I mean, I -- I mean, I realize that that's a small amount of the entire cost, but I mean, it is so unbelievably insane to take taxpayer money and do something like that!
Nash's complaint says O'Reilly called her business a "con" and Van Susteren accused her of stealing taxpayer money, but we assume that if Fox News lawyers ever have to defend themselves, they'll argue that the hosts' rage (and those statements in particular) aren't focused much on the "chick" as they are on the government agency that paid for her services. Sure, they don't see much value in her business, though they made no effort to interview her about it, but let's assume they wouldn't much care if a private company paid for it. (Unless that private company were Fox News.)
If Nash's complaints about a drop in business bear out, it'll be interesting to wonder whether her experience is a broad one. Though taxpayers, pundits, and congressmen got outraged only at the GSA itself, the people the GSA actually paid for their conference services might see collateral damage for doing nothing more than landing a big (very generous) client. What's a commemorative coin maker to do?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.