The Corner

Law & the Courts

Re: No Good Name To Lose

Jonah, you probably already know this, but not having a good name to lose isn’t just a PR matter — it comes up in libel and defamation cases. (The one area of law I know a little about is libel; when you’re a newspaper editor, you get threatened with a lot of libel suits — a lot more than you do as a fairly controversial political commentator, weirdly enough.)

Some plaintiffs have been held to be “libel proof,” i.e. having such low reputations that they cannot suffer meaningful incremental harm to their reputations even in the face of claims that are false and ordinarily defamatory.

The New York Times has argued that Trump is “libel proof” on the matter of touching women in an unwanted sexual manner. Mobster John Cerasani argued that he was defamed by the film Donnie Brasco, but the courts decided he had no good name to damage. Bob Guccione lost a libel case against Larry Flynt, whose magazine had suggested that Guccione was — you’ll find this difficult to believe — engaged in extramarital sexual impropriety.

A similar case was made — unsuccessfully — by a scurrilous journalist rightly sued by William F. Buckley Jr. in response to his claim that WFB was a “fellow traveler” with fascism.

My own view is that public figures should probably be more aggressive about libel cases. They won’t help their reputations much, probably, but it is a public service to call to account journalists and others making claims that are false and defamatory.

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (conference calls, social-media groups, etc.). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going. Consider it?

If you enjoyed this article, and were stimulated by its contents, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.


Most Popular

White House

Another Warning Sign

The Mueller report is of course about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about the White House's interference in the resulting investigation. But I couldn’t help also reading the report as a window into the manner of administration that characterizes the Trump era, and therefore as another warning ... Read More
Film & TV

Jesus Is Not the Joker

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they’re not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there’s Joaquin Phoenix. He’s playing Jesus ... Read More

Supreme Court Mulls Citizenship Question for Census

Washington -- The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy ... Read More

What’s So Great about Western Civilization

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter), One of the things I tell new parents is something that was told to me when my daughter still had that ... Read More
White House

The Mueller Report Should Shock Our Conscience

I've finished reading the entire Mueller report, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel's Office. We've become accustomed to Trump making up ... Read More