In its first information-seeking lawsuit, Gawker is taking legal action against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office, seeking to compel Christie to disclose records of his communications with Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
As the New York Times first reported Sunday night, "A strong public interest exists in knowing whether the executive in charge of the nation's most-watched cable news channel is acting as a political consultant to a prospective Republican presidential candidate," the civil suit, filed Monday in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, states.
The litigation has its origins in a snippet of Gabe Sherman's New York magazine feature from May about the influence of Ailes and Fox News within the Republican power base. In the piece, Sherman reported: "A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the [2012 presidential] race. Last summer, he'd invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes's calls to run."
Gawker investigative reporter (and former Yahoo! News blogger) John Cook, who's carved out an entire Roger Ailes beat on the irreverent news and gossip website, subsequently fired off an open records request to obtain "any correspondence between the two men, as well as any records of meetings or phone calls with Ailes from Christie's schedule or call logs." But he was rebuffed by the governor's office, which claimed such records were legally shielded from public view because Ailes served as a confidential adviser to Christie, and thus was protected by "executive privilege."
Gawker editor-in-chief Remy Stern did not immediately respond to a request for comment (nor did spokespeople for Christie or Fox News), but Cook, in an interview with the Times, explained his motivations for going after the communications between the two conservative elites.
"The next thing that I would like to be publicly acknowledged [about Fox News] is not just that they're ideological--they're not just the TV equivalent of The Weekly Standard or something--they are actually a power base within the Republican Party," he said.