Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Weekly World News defense

You might recall that several years ago, prior to the demise of the late, unlamented Weekly World News, they were sued for libel (actually, I can't find the story right now -- it might have been a different tabloid. I don't remember what the specific case was about, but the publisher offered a novel and creative defense: they claimed that they should not be held liable because everyone KNEW they were full of shit, had no credibility, and thus there could be no damages.

Which immediately came to mind when I saw this:

DOJ Asks Court to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Former EPA Chief Over Remarks About Trade Center Air

A former Environmental Protection Agency chief should not be held personally liable for telling residents near the World Trade Center site that the air was safe to breathe after the 2001 terrorist attack, a government lawyer argued Monday.

Holding Christine Todd Whitman liable will set a dangerous precedent, leaving public officials to worry that their words to reassure the public after disasters will open them up to personal liability, Justice Department attorney Alisa Klein told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

My, yes. We can't have our government officials worrying about whether what they say is actually true, now can we?

If the Senate had not stayed in session over Thanksgiving, we would have had Bat Boy appointed to a cabinet-level spot by now.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

The demise of the WWN was not entirely unlamented. I had a subscription in college. Week after week it would come and take the edge off of things for a while.

Also, the libel case you mention sounds like the Hustler case that is actually a very important case and makes Larry Flynt something of a free speech icon.

11:22 AM  

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