Actor James Woods Now On The Receiving End Of Questionable Twitter Defamation Claim

from the what's-good-for-the-goose dept

Remember James Woods? The Hollywood actor sued a Twitter troll for $10 million, claiming defamation, because that troll had sarcastically referred to Woods as a "cocaine addict." Woods, of course, has a long history of mixing it up on Twitter with lots of people, including saying things almost identical to what he sued over:

Throughout the case, Woods continued to make it abundantly clear to the world that he is a horrible person. Specifically, during the course of the case, the (anonymous) defendant unexpectedly passed away, leading Woods to gloat about the guy's death, after first claiming that the reason the appeal in the case was dropped was because he was winning the case:



Not only that, but even after the defendant passed away and the case was dropped, Woods continued the lawsuit and forced the opposing side to reveal the name of the anonymous Twitter user who so enraged Woods.

Of course, as we've said time and time again, people should be very careful in gleefully taking down the rights of others, because you never quite know when that same sort of thing might boomerang back around. Case in point: the Hollywood Reporter notes that James Woods is being sued for defamation... over some of his tweets. The lawsuit, seeking $3 million, and brought by Portia Boulger, claims that Woods defamed her and then was insincere in his apology:

This all started in March 2016, after the Chicago Tribune posted a campaign rally photo of a woman who was wearing a Trump T-shirt and giving a Nazi salute — the well-known 'Heil Hitler' salute with her right hand raised straight up — and several Twitter users misidentified the woman in the picture as Boulger, according to the complaint. Woods tweeted the photo from his verified account and wrote, “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?”

[....]

After Boulger's attorneys contacted the actor, he deleted the tweets and wrote a new series of them that were meant to be a retraction. However, two of the three apology tweets were untrue, according to Boulger.

A March 23 tweet by Woods reads: “Ms. Boulder [sic] has reached out to me and asked me to use my many followers to stop people from harassing her. I am more than happy to do so.”

That was followed by another: “Though she supports @BernieSanders, I am happy to defend her from abuse. I only wish his supporters would do the same for other candidates.”

You can read the full lawsuit here if you're interested.

Now, here's the thing: while there's obviously the emotional appeal of seeing Woods hit with the same kind of lawsuit that he saddled someone else with, this lawsuit appears to be just as misguided, if not worse. I know (first hand...) that some people think that it's okay to cheer on bogus lawsuits against people you dislike, but some of us have principles. Bogus defamation lawsuits are an affront to free speech, whether they're brought against people we like or not. And this certainly looks like a bogus defamation lawsuit. I hate to say it, because I'm sure Woods will continue to gloat and never realize the contradictions if he does, but Woods should win this lawsuit easily.

The original tweet may be borderline, but it would be quite difficult to argue that Woods posted it with actual malice, defined as knowledge that the information was false, or with reckless disregard for the truth -- which is the standard necessary if Boulger is deemed a public figure, which seems likely in this case (Boulger is a political activist and that's a big part of what the dispute is about). Yes, the tweet misidentified her, but hard to argue that it could pass the bar to be defamation. The fact that Woods then deleted the tweet after being informed that he was wrong, and posted the follow up tweets helps his case as well, even if Boulger's lawyers attack those tweets too. Here's what the complaint says about them:

The second and third of these tweets were false, insulting and demeaning as Ms. Boulger never asked Mr. Woods to “reach out to my many followers to stop people from harassing her.” Rather, Ms. Boulger, through counsel, had demanded a retraction and apology.

Yeah... that's such a difference of degree that there's almost no way it will be seen as defamatory. Furthermore, "insulting and demeaning" is not defamation, nor is it against the law. Unfortunately for Woods, Ohio, where the case is filed has no anti-SLAPP law as far as I can tell. So this case becomes yet another example of why a federal anti-SLAPP law is important. Of course, Woods could try to move the venue or push for California's anti-SLAPP law to apply, since he's a resident of California.

In certain ways, this case actually has a fair number of similarities to the Katie Hopkins Twitter defamation lawsuit in the UK that we wrote about earlier this week. We noted in that story how different UK and US defamation law can be, but also noted that Hopkins was widely disliked, and thus many people who otherwise tend to be good on free speech issues were celebrating her "loss." One hopes that on this one people can remain above that sort of thing, and recognize that if you support true freedom of expression, then this case must fail, even if you don't like James Woods, or were furious at him for filing his own wacky defamation case over tweets not too long ago.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 11:59am

    May it be a painful, dragged out victory

    On the one hand, yeah he's scum but that doesn't mean he should lose the lawsuit, even if it would be a delightful case of 'be careful what you wish for', so I do hope that the suit is dismissed or he otherwise wins it. He screwed up, he was called on it and removed the offending tweet and seems to have corrected his previous statements. That doesn't strike me as something worth $3 million.

    On the other hand after his stunning display of character in the last lawsuit made clear just how disgusting a person he is(seriously, cheering on a death and hoping the person died in agony?) I'm not going to spend any time feeling bad for the schadenfreude I get thinking of the trouble he's going to have to deal with from the lawsuit, and I can but hope that the stress he has to wade through is a least a notable fraction of what the person he sued had to deal with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:29pm

      Re: May it be a painful, dragged out victory

      He screwed up, he was called on it and removed the offending tweet and seems to have corrected his previous statements.

      To be clear, even when corrected he refused to remove the offending tweet. It's only 10 days later, after Boulger’s attorney contacted Woods’ attorney, that he took it down.

      In the mean time the accusation and Boulger’s link to the Bernie Sanders campaign - his reason for telling the lie in the first place - was retweeted more than 5000 times including by Donald Trump Jr. You can bet that the "correction" didn't get the same retweets.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:08pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:46pm

    James Woods on FG

    In an Episode of Family Guy, James Woods tells Chris about going to a cocaine party and having sex with an actress. In another episode he's buying Oxycontin or Vicodin from a guy. I'm shocked the defense never used these against him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:07pm

      Re: James Woods on FG

      Eh, Woods’s lawyers would have probably claimed “parody” (in that cartoon!Woods was an exaggeration of real-life!Woods combined with stereotypes about Hollywood actors).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:46pm

    Darwin was right, we need to stop interfering and let nature cull off the old and infirm.
    Can we put him on an ice floe (while we still have them) and set his ass adrift and move on?

    Hes a horrible person, there is momentary joy in him facing the same shit hes pulled before, but it won't make him less horrible... unless this case ends up like his case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:58pm

    Didn't John Lennon sing about this case before twitter existed?

    "Instant Karma's gonna get you!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 2:49pm

    Aw man... I actually liked him in his acting. I thought he played the arsehole really well. Turns out he was just being himself. Now I can't feel right supporting anything he is in again.
    He is supposed to be very smart according to some... just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you hear, I suppose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Mar 2017 @ 4:05am

    That's what so hard about defending freedom of speech. Sometimes you have to side with pieces of shit like Woods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    J.R., 17 Mar 2017 @ 9:12am

    What goes around, comes around ...

    Usually because people push it back around on themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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