Just months after she registered as a foreign agent to combat undesirable speech abroad, the former czar of the Department of Homeland Security's short-lived Disinformation Governance Board, Nina Jankowicz, is back and apparently keen to once again rein in conservative voices.
On March 2, Jankowicz took to GoFundMe to beg for money, specifically to fund a defamation lawsuit against Fox News.
Claiming that her critics at the network used her "as a punching bag" and made "malicious and reckless false statements," allegedly prompting her to resign her position, Jankowicz noted that she now intends to hold Fox News to account.
What's the background?
Jankowicz, who evidently likes to emphasize "freedom of speech does not necessarily mean freedom of reach," was tapped by President Joe Biden to helm the DHS' Disinformation Governance Board, which was announced on April 27, 2022. She did not last long in the executive director role.
The board was likened to the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" and faced significant opposition.
Jankowicz was criticized, in part, for advancing some disinformation herself, having amplifiedspurious claims on Twitter ahead of the 2020 presidential election that the Hunter Biden laptop "is a Russian influence op" and claiming in 2017, "[I]f there was FBI and DOJ bias during 2016, it was certainly against Clinton."
Despite suggesting that she would never have brought politics into her role, her partisan views and perceived antipathy for Republicans were similarly called into question.
The board was "paused" three weeks after its announcement, culminating in its demise and with Jankowicz's resignation on May 18.
In her GoFundMe plea for $100,000, Jankowicz noted that within hours of being publicly nominated by Biden to the role, "baseless claims that the Board was a nationwide, Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth' and I was 'President Biden’s chief censor' were trending on social media, even though the Board had nothing to do with arbitrating or restricting speech. The next day, Fox News launched its overly personalized, false, and incendiary coverage of me, mainstreaming online conspiracy theories to tens of millions of Americans."
In conjunction with Fox News, Jankowicz claimed that "Congressional Republicans and the right-wing media characterized me as an unhinged, partisan, unserious, dangerous fascist, despite my track record of measured, bipartisan work, including testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2018 at the GOP chair’s invitation."
Some Fox News pundits had indeed opined on Jankowicz's past comments, the possibility she might abuse her power in the future, and her clumsy rhymes.
"After all those years of advanced education, Nina Jankowicz became an internationally recognized expert on disinformation and not only that, she can't even rhyme very well," Tucker Carlson said in April 2022, referencing Jankowicz's "Mary Poppins of disinformation" video:
"What Nina Jankowicz can do, her one skill, the purpose for which she was hired, is level partisan attacks on the other side with maximum ferocity. That is her real job," added Carlson. "Now, you may have noticed if you listen carefully to the ditty that she just sang that every example of disinformation in her karaoke performance came from people who opposed Joe Biden's policies."
In the video accompanying her request for money, Jankowicz highlighted other unacceptable opinions expressed on the network, such as when a cohost on "Fox & Friends First" said, "[T]his disinformation czar thinks it's okay for her to edit your speech," and on another occasion when Sean Hannity claimed, "Jankowicz is a conspiracy theorist who wants all Americans to believe her twisted opinions and lies are facts."
While Fox News and other media outfits criticized what they reckoned was the face of a new growth of an unaccountable bureaucracy, Republican politicians followed suit.
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) called Jankowicz a "political hack" and tweeted that the board was "seriously dangerous and wholly unconstitutional."
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) similarly denounced the board, tweeting, "The Biden administration just took one more step towards Communism. DHS’ 'Ministry of Truth' is a crackdown on our Constitutional right to Free Speech."
Jankowicz noted in her e-begging post that as a result of these and similar critiques, she decided to throw in the towel prior to the board's dissolution.
"The Board was eventually scrapped, caving to the GOP disinformation campaign about it. Yet, more than ten months after my position was announced, the hate campaign against me continues," she wrote.
For the apparently inexcusable crime of criticizing a government official, Jankowicz believes Fox News should pay her an untold amount in restitution. Though what she is personally willing or able to pay toward this end is unclear, she noted in her GoFundMe post that she will need others to chip in.
At the time of publication, Jankowicz had hit roughly 14% of her target, which she vows not to "waste, divert, or profit from."
Some of those who have donated have admittedly done so simply to publicize their criticisms of the former disinformation czar on the crowdfund website.
A donor who identified himself as James Wagner gave $5 and commented, "Worth the $5 to point out that 80-90% of the stuff you were labeling as 'misinformation' turned out to be true months later...things that got people deplatformed and cancelled 3 months earlier were later mainstream news...with no consequences."
A donor named John Finn similarly donated $5, writing, "If this money helps to further bring humiliation to thin skinned, woe is me former government official Nina Jankowicz then it is money well spent."
Jankowicz noted in her plea that she has retained a lawyer to help her navigate a possible subpoena from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to appear before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Additionally, she claims to have retained an attorney to help her with a protective order "against one of my more persistent individual harassers."
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