Donald Trump can’t change the libel laws

February 27, 2016

Donald Trump can’t change the libel laws because they are based on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Background

Every person has a duty to refrain from uttering false statements about others. Libel is a defamatory written statement while slander is a defamatory oral statement. Under common law a person could sue another person for defamation of character if the oral or written statement was false, negligently made and it caused financial injury.

Public officials and Public Figures

In New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), the SCOTUS modified the common law rule to require public officials to prove that a false statement about them was uttered or published with ‘actual malice.’ That is, that the person or news organization knowingly or recklessly uttered or published the false statement and the statement caused financial injury. Actual malice is more difficult to prove. The SCOTUS decided to make it more difficult for public officials to prove up a case for defamation in order to protect the media’s right to free speech and free press in service to the public’s right to know what their public officials are doing. The Court reasoned that the easier to prove negligence standard unnecessarily restricted the flow of information in a competitive environment to be the first to break a story.

Congress cannot pass a law that restores the negligence standard because the actual malice standard is based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Only the SCOTUS can change the law and it has shown no inclination to do so since it decided New York Times in 1964.

In fact, in Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), the SCOTUS extended the actual malice test to public figures.

Conclusion

Donald Trump is a public figure who hopes to become a public official. He can attempt to intimidate journalists from reporting about him by threatening to sue them for statements he dislikes, but he will be wasting his time and making a fool out of himself. Heightened media scrutiny comes with the territory when you are running for president. The reporters and the organizations they work for know the rules.

He needs to stop whining and deal with it.


Donald Trump is unfit to be president because he is a demagogue and a racist Islamophobe

November 21, 2015

We are living in dangerous times when economic insecurity, fear and hatred create fertile soil for demagogues to take root and spread. Donald Trump is such a man and he is not alone.

In an OpEd at CNN yesterday, Dean Obeidallah said,

 Shockingly, Trump told Yahoo News that he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, or worse, mandating that they carry special identification cards that note their faith.
The reaction to this idea, fairly or unfairly, by many on social media, was to accuse Trump of wanting to mimic laws that Nazis had imposed on Jews, including requiring them to wear a gold Star of David on their clothes.
After Trump confirmed that he would set up a database for Muslim-Americans, an NBC reporter asked him point blank: “Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?” A clearly annoyed Trump at first refused to respond, but then told the reporter, “You tell me,” and walked away.

Trump, like most Republicans, is opposed to accepting any Syrian refugees. Contrast his response to the Paris bombings and shootings eight days ago that killed 130 people, for which ISIS claimed credit, to French President Francois Hollande’s affirmation after the attacks that France will not only honor its promise to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees, it will increase that amount.

Meanwhile, to combat a rising tide of Islamophobia in France, many people are planning on participating in a rally in Paris by Muslims against ISIS. Huffington Post is reporting,

At the same time, some French citizens — banned by police order from demonstrations in Paris until Thursday — were expressing their support for French Muslims and Muslims worldwide on social media and organizing interfaith gatherings.

By Sunday, 3,000 people had pledged to attend a multi-faith “Rally with Muslims of France for Peace and National Unity,” scheduled for the end of the week near Paris’ Grand Mosque. Another 6,000 said they were interested in going. Several other gatherings were being organized via Facebook to take place after the demonstration ban, including “I am a Muslim, Daesh [ISIS] Is Not,” and a rally of “Prayers for Paris” — with 13,000 possible attendees as of Sunday afternoon — at the Arc de Triomphe next weekend.

“Terrorism has no religion or nationality,” wrote Grand Mosque demonstration organizer Samia Edd Cardi, a Muslim and tech entrepreneur, on the event’s page, which also gathered atheists and Christians who said they would attend. Cardi did not reply to a message on Facebook from The Huffington Post, and the Grand Mosque of Paris did not return a message requesting information about the event.

At the Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Paris, imams from around the globe are scheduled to gather for a meeting of the World Union of Experts of Islam for Peace and against Violence, which was already planned ahead of the attacks but is now taking on even more urgency. Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe will host the meeting.

“After this heinous attack, we may wish for God to come down and wipe out our enemies. Instead, Christ on the cross, completely powerless at the last, shows us that it is only love that can overcome hatred, evil and even death,” Whalon, who is based in Paris, said in a statement.

And it’s not just Donald Trump who is beating the fear and hate drums. Ben Carson, who has been running neck and neck with Trump in the polls, referred to Syrian refugees a few days ago as “rabid dogs,”and the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would so complicate the process of vetting Syrian refugees as to make it virtually impossible to admit any of them. All but one Republican voted in favor of the bill. 47 Democrats also voted for the bill.

Donal Trump doesn’t just hate Muslims. He also hates Latinos, specifically Mexicans, even though more Mexican illegal immigrants have been returning to Mexico since 2010 rather than entering the United States. Shamefully, Trump and the Republicans continue bleating about a non-existing illegal immigration problem through a supposedly insecure southern border with Mexico. Trump went so far as to claim that Mexico is exporting rapists and murderers into our country. He has promised to round up all the illegals, who are estimated to number around 11 million people, and send them back to Mexico. Then, he’s going to build a fence to keep them out and present the Mexican government with a bill to pay for it.

Whether his cheap theatrics and brazen appeal to fear and hate will prevail remains to be seen.

Update: Add Marco Rubio to the list of Islamophobes. From Think Progress: Rubio Trumps Trump: Shut Down Any Place Muslims Gather To Be ‘Inspired’ — Not Just Mosques


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