Defamation: Trump’s ignorance about the law and the First Amendment

The creature just does not understanding anything. A solid read from Publisher’s Marketplace, with a little bit of bolding:

A Different Fury: Trump Inspires Free Speech Defenders

President Trump gave a big boost to nonprofits that safeguard freedom of the press yesterday by once again threatening his idea of free speech and libel, which also serves as a tacit admission that last week’s cease and desist letter from his personal attorney to publisher Henry Holt was an intimidation tactic he knows is not supported by law.

Trump’s remarks said: “We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws. So that when somebody says something is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts. If somebody says something that is totally false, and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse. Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we’re going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. Can’t say things that are false; knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account. We are going to take a very, very strong look at that, and I think what the American people want to see is fairness.”

Clearly he should take that strong look, so that he will find our country has no federal libel law. Libel is a matter of state law, and those laws are constrained by the Constitution and its amendments, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. As First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams told CNN, taking a “strong look at libel law” is “not a bad idea because he’ll learn that it already allows recovery for knowingly false speech, even about public officials, at the same time it protects us against people in power who seek to use the libel law to suppress or punish speech that is critical of them.”

The controlling ruling regarding the press writing about public officials and public figures, which is really what the president is talking about, is the Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision in 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. That’s when the court set the standard that: “The constitutional guarantees require, we think, a Federal rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Changing that would require a complete reversal by the Court or a Constitutional amendment.

Otherwise, libel laws do generally already provide for exactly what the president has suggested. Trump himself is facing a defamation suit from women who accused him of sexual harassment. And as Twitter quickly pointed out, throwing out the Supreme Court precedent would mean people who insist the president is not a natural born citizen or suggest their political opponent’s father helped assassinate President Kennedy would be even more vulnerable to legal action as well.

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