This post was written by WDTLAY’s first guest contributor, Aaron W.
Businessman Donald Trump and his newly acquired cheerleader Chris Christie spoke on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump spoke for forty minutes and touched on many of the issues he has been shouting about recently; he also said gave an opinion on what he would do upon a presidential win:
“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. We’re going to open up those libel laws.”
Trump did not elaborate, coming as a surprise to no one. Obviously there are first amendment issues here but it’s unclear exactly which libel laws he is talking about. There are no current federal libel laws. Libel is handled at the state level. Because of the ruling in the 1964 Supreme Court case, “New York Times V. Sullivan,” Trump won’t be able to just “open up” the libel laws.
According to the ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law website, this is what’s stated in the conclusion:
“The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity). Under this new standard, Sullivan’s case collapsed.”
It does seem that the media is beginning to irritate him as Donald’s aggression toward the media has been growing in the recent weeks, and with the New York Times in particular.
Trump continued: “…When The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”
Trump often lambasts the media in his speeches, frequently referring to them as “dishonest,” “horrible,” and “the most terrible people,” often while literally pointing at the press pit filled with reporters and members of the news media.
In the end, Trump’s case would almost certainly collapse as Sullivan’s did. While it might not be hard to find a case of malice against him, it would be incredibly difficult for Trump to get any suit off the ground, even if he manages to stumble into the Oval Office. It’s also unclear who the “we” is that Trump keeps referring to in his speech. Am I going to get money when President Donald Trump wins a libel suit? Fingers crossed, I guess?
“New York Times Company v. Sullivan.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Feb 26, 2016. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1963/39