A couple of days ago, the Daily News’s John Marzulli reported that a female NYC bus driver “has the right to sue over what she says are her boss’ leering looks — and a Brooklyn judge found a classic photograph to prove the point.”
The judge is U.S. District Court’s Jack Weinstein. I’d accurately use the word “legendary” to describe Judge Weinstein but the term has been so degraded recently by gossip columnists who call everybody “legendary” (I’m legendary, who are you?). Judge Weinstein, “in an unusual twist … attached to his 18-page-decision a copy of photographer Ruth Orkin’s famous 1951 “American Girl in Italy,” which depicts a woman passing a gauntlet of lustful men undressing her with their eyes on a Florence street.
“‘Lewd gestures and looks may alone be sufficient to create an atmosphere of sexual hostility,’ Weinstein noted.”
Which brings me to an editorial in yesterday’s Daily News, “No, he Cain’t,” about Herman Cain. And that reminds me to wonder when the women who have accused Cain of sexual harassment will file defamation lawsuits. Not necessarily against Cain solely (although he did say demeaning and ugly things about them), but definitely against the bully band of opinionators who have defamed these women.
I know they have, because I know what they’ve said. And I know what they’ve said because I regularly follow MediaMatters, the excellent critic of inaccuracies and falsehoods in all the media. (MediaMatters is so excellent, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox has taken them on for direct assault. You’d think Murdoch had enough to do, what with all this defending himself against a criminal indictment in Great Britain, but hey, I guess the One Percent can afford to wage war on several fronts. For a while, anyway.)
Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are only two of the people who can and will, I hope, be sued for defamation. Things that they have said take my breath away. “The horror! The horror!”
A small personal essay about defamation.
Once again, I give you Black’s Law Dictionary definition of defamation:
defamation, n. 1. The act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third person. If the alleged defamation involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove both the statement’s falsity and the defendant’s fault. 2. A false written or oral statement that damages another’s reputation.
That’s pretty dry and general. This is my (hypothetical) description of a defamatory act:
- Someone calls you a name or denigrates you in some painful verbal or written way.
- He does this in public, that is within the ears or eyes of at least one other person.
- He has every reason to know that his accusation is demonstrably false.
- You are not a public figure. The person who called you that name, however, is either a public personality or your superior at, say, an office.
- What he called you will damage your reputation, especially if done in the earshot of someone who is possibly a gossip, and will spread the word. “Wait until you hear what [blank] said about [blank]!”
- And if word gets around that [blank] said [blank] about you, it will make it virtually impossible for you to find another job, rent an apartment, keep your friends, etc. That is, your survival is at stake.
There you have the “damage” part of defamation.
Shirley Sherrod is suing Andrew Breitbart for defaming her. The women who have publicly accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment (a crime), and have been defamed by public figures like Rush Limbaugh, with his huge dopey audience, might find it impossible to get jobs after this.
That’s why I think and hope they’ll sue.