Floyd Abrams, a lawyer whose reputation as a fierce protector of free speech is perhaps second to no one.
What did Abrams mean by his suggestion that those in the media needed to get creative in the face of a president promising to open up libel laws?
“Trump has denounced people in language that punctuated his campaign,” Abrams tells The Hollywood Reporter in a follow-up conversation. “If what he said is not pure protected opinion, then the press side ought to take a hard look and see if they have a basis for commencing litigation. They have to think creatively, as no candidate in living memory has denounced the press as he has; no candidate has banned journalists from covering him because they didn’t like the tone or substance of what [journalists] are saying. And so, press lawyers ought to bear in mind that if things get rough, if the relationship is one of constant denigration and threats, it may be time for journalists to think about using libel laws in a way that is constitutional.”
How would this work in practice? If Trump calls a reporter “dishonest” and claims a story is “false,” would it be grounds for a lawsuit?
“If what he’s saying is merely rhetorical or hyperbolic in the sense of ‘reporters are no good,’ that would not give [the journalist] a right [to sue],” answers Abrams. “But if he seems to mean it, if he says a reporter is routinely publishing false material, then maybe we’re moving down the road where a reporter responds by not only saying, ‘It is not so,’ but by going to court.”
The president-elect of the United States sent out two lying tweets about the New York Times:…
The facts: since the election, NYT has seen a surge in new digital subscriptions, 6 times our normal pace
Stop using “Alt Right.” It is the racist, anti-semitic, fascist extreme right. Please be clear & stop normalizing.