Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Journalists Can't Accurately Report False Statements

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to to hear Troy Publishing v. Norton, thus leaving stand a lower court ruling that journalists and their publications can be sued for accurately reporting false statements made by others. That is, if somebody makes a false statement about somebody else, and a newspaper accurately reports what was said, the target of the false statement can sue the newspaper, in addition to possibly suing the person who made the statement.

Among other things, this means a politician can sue a newspaper for reporting false statements made by political rivals. This is exactly the scenario which brought the case before the high court. William T. Glenn Sr, a councilman in West Chester, Pa. reportedly called Mayor Alan Wolfe and Councilman James Norton "liars" and a "bunch of draft dodgers", and well as questioning their sexual orientation. The targets of Mr. Glenn's comments sued him and the West Chester Daily Local News. After working its way up through the appeals courts, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, effectively handing a victory to the defamed politicians.

One wonders if John Kerry can sue Fox, CNN, MSNBC and others for repeating any false charges made by the Swifties.


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