For years, we have endured a lopsided version of “free speech” in which Republicans made up horrible stuff to feed their hate mongering base and they did it with impunity. While rare, there are occasions when the purveyors of racism, homophobia, misogyny, slut shaming, poverty shaming and all those other wonderfully “Christian” sentiments get theirs.
Elizabeth Lauten showed her “class” by taking to Facebook to attack Sasha and Malia Obama because they rolled their eyes at a turkey pardon. By Monday, Lauten “resigned” her position as a spokesperson for Congressman Steven Fincher and we had the added bonus of learning just how “classy” Lauten was when she was a teenager.
Glenn Beck could be the next to bear some consequences for the sort of hate mongering propaganda he was known for on Fox and now on his personal online hate machine of The Blaze Inc.
Beck is the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a Saudi Arabian student who Beck repeatedly accused of being the “money man” behind the Boston Marathon bombing of last year. According to Reuters, Alharbi v. Beck et al, passed its first hurdle on Tuesday when a Boston Judge concluded that “Abdulrahman Alharbi’s allegations “easily permit an inference” that Beck, his company The Blaze Inc. and a distributor of his radio show were negligent toward him over Beck’s comments.
Alharbi was a spectator who was standing near the finish line at the Marathon. News reports did mention him and he was the subject of a brief investigation. Of course, once authorities found out that he had no role in the bombing, they dropped the investigation.
Eventually, the investigation led police to Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Still, Beck continued to tell his radio audience that Alharbi was involved.
Alharbi’s suit claims that Beck repeatedly made false statements about Alharbi including that he helped fund the bombing and Beck continued to make these false statements after the investigation stopped because investigators found that Alharbi had no involvement in the bombing.
Alharbi suit claims that as a consequence of Beck’s repeatedly false statements Alharbi’s reputation was damaged and he was subjected to messages that called him a murderer, child killer and terrorist.
Judge Saris rejected Beck’s attempt to get the suit dismissed because according to Beck, Alharbi was a “limited purpose” or “involuntary” public figured who failed to show that Beck acted with “actual malice” meaning that he lied or recklessly disregarded the truth.
In essence, Beck tried to claim that Alharbi became an “involuntary” public figure because Beck repeatedly lied about him, therefore stripping Alharbi of his “private figure” status. That makes a difference because in defamation cases, the bar is set higher for public figures, be they voluntary or involuntary.
Fortunately, the judge didn’t buy it. As the Judge said so well,
Choosing to attend a sporting event as one of thousands of spectators is not the kind of conduct that a reasonable person would expect to result in publicity,
Alharbi’s lawsuit seeks “unspecified damages.” This is only the first hurdle and ultimately, Beck could get off the hook. Still, the chance that he could be held accountable for his version of “reporting” is worth celebrating.
Let’s face it. Beck built his career on malicious falsehoods directed at anyone who falls in the long list of targets of the right wing hate machine. This isn’t the first time that Beck went too far, or repeated horrible lies long after they were debunked. Maybe this time he’ll face the consequences.
However, people like Beck and his fellow pundits, and “reporters” at Fox and similar “news outlets” have made a mockery of journalism and of the true value of a free press.
Image Right Wing Watch