Wisconsin judge: Viewers know Fox News program isn’t straight news

Fox News isn’t really news, a judge in Wisconsin has ruled. Sort of.

The judge in Milwaukee County ruled against Aaron Marjala, a firefighter who was found permanently disabled in 2008. While collecting the disability payments Marjala maintained “an active lifestyle.” Marjala even ran in marathons.

“The ironman too injured to fight fires, Aaron Marjala, was one of Wisconsin’s bravest until he banged his funny bone on a kitchen counter at a Milwaukee firehouse. Oh, the horror,” said Megyn Kelly, a Fox News host.

Her guest, New York lawyer Lee Armstrong, added: “He’s exploited this supposed injury …. There has to be an investigation here — something needs to be done — this guy should no longer get this money… It’s disgusting.”

So Marjala sued for defamation.

This week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, Milwaukee County Civil Court Judge Jeffrey Conen ruled the Fox News audience would most likely understand that Kelly’s program “isn’t a straight news program.”

The viewers could independently judge whether the defendant’s opinions and comments were reasonable and make up their own mind about the duty disability system and Mr. Marjala’s receipt of the benefits,” Conen said.

Conen also said Fox News was trying to “illustrate a weakness in Wisconsin’s duty disability system” in which Marjala could complete 26.2 mile runs while collecting state payments to help aid his nerve damage.

Defense attorneys Steven Mandell and Natalie Harris of Chicago called Conen’s ruling “a victory for free speech.”

“Under the First Amendment, the press must be allowed to freely criticize the government for doling out disability benefits to able-bodied athletes,” Harris said.

Craig Powell and Michael S. Hart, the attorneys representing Marjala, countered that ruling amounted to “a victory for dishonest speech.”

Kelly’s program is the most popular show on cable TV, according to Hollywood Reporter.