Reporting On Someone Claiming An Opponent 'Lies' In A Heated Debate Is Not Libel
from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept
Reporter Amy Wallace wrote an article late last year for Wired Magazine about the extremely heated and somewhat controversial debate over child vaccinations. In the course of the article, she quotes people from both sides. At one point, when one of the main doctors who supports vaccinations discusses the woman who has become the face (and voice) of the anti-vaccination crew, he responds to some of her claims by noting "she lies." Apparently, those two words resulted in her filing a defamation lawsuit against the doctor and the reporter, Amy Wallace. Thankfully, the court was quick to totally reject this argument (pdf):
Several Fourth Circuit cases make clear that including a remark by one of the key participants in a heated public-health debate stating that his adversary "lies" is not an actionable defamation. Indeed, both the nature of the statement -- including that it was quoting an advocate with a particular scientific viewpoint and policy position -- and the statement's context -- a very brief passage in a lengthy description of an ongoing, heated public health controversy -- confirm that this is a protected expression of opinion.The ruling goes on to discuss this in much more detail, pointing out that "she lies" is not the sort of statement that the court should be spending its time on, to determine its veracity. Instead, for there to be libel, there needs to be an actual statement of fact that is provable one way or the other. Looks like another lawsuit that appears to have been filed more to silence a critic than for any legitimate reason has been quickly shot down by the courts. Good for them.