National Politics - 2016

Donald Trump’s Wrong-Headed View On “Opening Up” Libel Law

GOP FRONTRUNNER MUST RECHANNEL HIS FRUSTRATION WITH THE LIBERAL LEGACY PRESS This website has enthusiastically applauded the populist insurgency led by billionaire businessman Donald Trump. In fact we endorsed Trump’s bid for the “Republican” presidential nomination in early-voting South Carolina – arguing he represented a “purifying conflagration” desperately needed if…


This website has enthusiastically applauded the populist insurgency led by billionaire businessman Donald Trump. In fact we endorsed Trump’s bid for the “Republican” presidential nomination in early-voting South Carolina – arguing he represented a “purifying conflagration” desperately needed if our country were ever to escape the terminal velocity of Washington, D.C. “bipartisanshit.”

But just because we admire the destructive force Trump’s candidacy is having on the political establishment doesn’t mean we embrace all of his views.  And it certainly doesn’t mean we’re going to keep quiet when Trump comes down on the wrong side of an issue – as he recently did vis-à-vis the debate between Apple and the federal government over encryption technology.

Like T.P. Tidwell in the movie Jerry Maguire, we have a commitment to the truth.  And to keeping it real.

Anyway, last week Trump once again drew our ire – stating that once he becomes president America’s libel laws will be amended to make it easier for politicians to sue media outlets.

“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said.

This is a terrible idea … for reasons that go far beyond freedom of the press.

First, some background: The current standard for a public figure seeking to win a libel judgment against someone else is referred to as actual malice.  Part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1964 Times v. Sullivan ruling, this standard means that in order for a public figure to win their case, they must not only demonstrate that statements made about them were false – but that these statements were made with “knowledge that the information was false” or with “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Oh, and this “reckless disregard” standard doesn’t mean lazy fact-checking, either.  It refers to the individual speaker entertaining real doubt as to the veracity of the statement being made – but then making it anyway.  Such cases are nearly impossible to prove because doing so requires entering the mind of the individual who made the statement.

Which is the point …

In issuing his pronouncement, Trump specifically singled out The New York Times and The Washington Post – two of the nation’s most liberal legacy media outlets.  He also referred to the media in general as “among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met.”

No arguments there.  But Trump’s method of going after them is troubling.

Trump said if one of those two papers “writes a hit piece we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”

“You see, with me, they’re not protected,” he added.

Here’s the problem with Trump’s approach: Libel laws aren’t just the law of the land when it comes to liberal legacy media – or for the conservative new media – they are the law of the land for everyday citizens voicing their disdain for government policies.

In other words, you.

“Opening up” America’s libel laws would certainly make it easier for politicians like Trump to sue the establishment press – and for uber-liberal politicians to sue conservative outlets.  But it would make it easier for government to crack down on the political speech of individuals.

Dramatically so, in all likelihood.

We don’t object to Trump’s declaration of war against the establishment press.  In fact we’ve had his back in this fight – and helped expose certain outlets for their status quo allegiances.  We’ve also been all over the legacy MSM for its receipt of government subsidies – and Obamacare subsidies, too.

Also, Trump isn’t the only candidate in this race attacking Big Media: Independent socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has been railing against the corporate press in his insurgent presidential campaign.  And rightfully so …

But as much as we enjoy bashing legacy media outlets for throwing/ pulling punches as it suits their increasingly leftward agenda – we cannot erode their most fundamental First Amendment protection.

Why not?  Because that’s our protection, too.  Not just as a media outlet, but as individual Americans.


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Manray9 February 28, 2016 at 6:31 pm

You call it the “destructive force” against the political establishment. I call it advancing one’s ambitions by inciting racism and xenophobia among the credulous. Will the right viewpoint be apparent before November?

euwe max February 28, 2016 at 7:04 pm

the “right viewpoint”
pay me – fuck you.

Bible Thumper February 28, 2016 at 7:56 pm

the “left viewpoint”
You earn it – i take it.

euwe max February 28, 2016 at 10:10 pm

You steal it – I take it back

Flip February 29, 2016 at 8:32 am


TroubleBaby February 29, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Who’s being stolen from and how?

Are you referring to Federal Reserve money printing? Banks with access to discount windows? Dems/Repubs that push gov’t business to their “friends” that sit them on boards after their “service” or pay them speaking fees?

Flip February 29, 2016 at 8:33 am

the “right viewpoint”


You earn it for me – I pay you my pocket change.

TroubleBaby February 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Who’s forcing you to work for them?

erneba February 28, 2016 at 7:57 pm

I can understand how some people would be sympathetic to that cause. The mainstream media is seen by many as being media lapdogs for the left. Therefore, some believe that a MSM that constantly leans in one direction should not be afforded Constitutional protection.
I think in the long run, that imbalance corrects itself over a period of time.
News distribution is not a responsibility of the government, and we should not put constraints on it that would make the government a major player in what NEWS is sanctioned and available to us.
In this day and time, more news is available from more sources than there has ever been.
If you don’t like the MSM, rejoice in the fact that the news distribution channels that ruled a few decades ago are now on the decline. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and network news broadcasts are rapidly declining in their influence. The internet has played a major role in starting to level this playing field. The most popular Cable News outlet now is more impartial and popular than CNN, MSNBC, etc. And there is more impartial NEWS available on the internet than anyone could ever read. Changing the libel laws would also affect all news outlets and the general public in a negative way.
Don’t like it, don’t watch it, or read it. The free market will be the equalizer.

Maryccoogan2 February 29, 2016 at 1:03 am

?my .friend’s mate Is getting 98$. HOURLY. on the internet.”….two days ago new McLaren. F1 bought after earning 18,512$,,,this was my previous month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, 17k$ Last month ..3-5 h/r of work a days ..with extra open doors & weekly. paychecks.. it’s realy the easiest work I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months ago and now making over 87$, p/h.Learn. More right Here`!b416????? http://GlobalSuperEmploymentVacanciesReportsHub/GetPaid/98$hourly…. .?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:?2:::::`!b416….

tomstickler February 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Considering this website’s base, Times v. Sullivan seems an odd cite.

Perhaps this:

Mike at the Beach February 28, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Ha! Times v. Sullivan is the go-to granpappy for the progeny of libel cases, but I would also add a cite for FITS. Ask the Sun News about Kelley v. Wren, Opinion No. 5375, Court of Appeals of South Carolina, heard December 9, 2015, filed January 13, 2016:

How’s that workin’ out so far? As of two weeks ago, not so well for Sun News…

shifty henry February 29, 2016 at 1:50 am

Just read your link, Mike, and it’s interestingly heavy stuff but reads (to me) as reasonable analysis of the situation. Wren’s wording caught him and the paper in a trap, even if unintentional. Reminds of the ditty that there’s a huge difference between “your shit” and “you’re shit”. Ouch..!!

Mike at the Beach February 29, 2016 at 2:01 am


“Let’s eat, Grandma!” connotes an entirely different meaning than, “Let’s eat Grandma!” This is especially true in parts of Brasil and New Guinea…

In your truly encyclopedic repertoire of humor, you likely have the “Panda walks into a bar” joke that relies on the amazingly powerful little comma. Same premise… ;-)

shifty henry February 29, 2016 at 8:03 am

Thanks for “Grandma” — now I have one I can tell grade school kids without their parents fussing at me!

Flip February 29, 2016 at 8:17 am

Now introducing Soylent Gray! It’s made out of old people!

Mike at the Beach February 29, 2016 at 5:45 pm


Buzz Martin February 29, 2016 at 6:10 pm

There are still two more steps in the appeal process. For a while it didn’t look as though TSN/McClatchy were going to press on — but now they are starting to get investigational again, rather than being docile about local abuses of power. They will take it all the way, and there’s no way in hell the Supreme Court will let this stand.

Buzz Martin February 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Apparently, pogo has given up on his obsession with the Kelley v Wren case. Either that, or someone has finally lobotomized him and put him out of our misery.

guest February 28, 2016 at 9:42 pm

I wonder if the author knows that in recent decisions, the US Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects a right for the media to lie outright and intentionally? At that level, we’re not talking about Ben Franklin printing out stuff in his garage. Few people realize just how concentrated the US media is today. 5 mega media corporations own over 80% of everything you see, read and hear on the news. In some markets you can open your daily paper, watch the morning news, listen to the news on the radio on your way to work, listen to a different channel on your way home, switch to the evening news on a cable channel and never get past the views of a single mega media outfit. In a lot of ways, Trump, at least to some extent, has the right of it, and it should be obvious he’s not talking about individual liberty, which does not enjoy the cart blanc protections these mega media outfits enjoy. At the most fundamental level, if you can control what people believe, you can control what people do. That my friend, is the shortest path to tyranny and loss of liberty that exists. Misinformed people can never be free. The problem is rampant to a degree that the argument checks and balances should be discussed is not entirely without merit.

Joe February 29, 2016 at 7:30 am

I would like to see the law changed to make it easy for public to sue PACS and Pols for misleading and often blatantly false advertising. Apply the “truth in advertising” standard to all paid political ads.

shifty henry February 29, 2016 at 8:06 am

=== public flogging!

Joe February 29, 2016 at 7:32 am

Trump should just buy a few big newspapers and a couple of networks and control the narrative the way Rupert does.

Bobby February 29, 2016 at 8:31 am

If a few competent lawyers exist in the legislature (a pipe dream I’m sure) they should be able to author rational piece of legislation that could pass Constitutional muster, providing an injured party an avenue to seek satisfaction from the individual or organization who published the false information. Incorporated in the law should be tort reform providing limited appeals (if not, corporations could continue appeals until the injured party dies from old age) requiring the loser pay.

Buzz Martin March 1, 2016 at 8:08 am

Speaking of lawsuits, Skip Hoagland has won his FOIA suit against the Hilton Head Island – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

/// Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles has ruled that Windmill Harbour resident and businessman Skip Hoagland is allowed access to the documents under the state’s freedom of information law. In his ruling dated Feb. 22, Nettles said that because the chamber receives public accommodations taxes, it must comply with the law. ///

Read more here: ///


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