Libel: Will Defamation Suits Doom Three Right-Wing Media Outlets?

4/13/14
 
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from Media Matters,
4/7/14:

Libel and slander cases are increasingly viewed as long-shot legal propositions that aren’t worth the effort required to see the cases to completion only to suffer defeat. But three high-profile libel suits against media organizations are bucking that trend and making their way through the legal system. Two of them have already cleared steep judicial hurdles, opening the way for the discovery phase and possible jury trials. All involve well-know conservative media defendants: National Review, the New York Post and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.

As Media Matters has documented for years, newsroom standards for conservative journalists leave much to be desired and outlets routinely trample over established norms of responsible behavior. But has the recklessness reached such heights, and have the attacks become so slanderous, that courts will rule against the offending media outlets? And if so, how high could the penalties run?

“All three are plausible libels suits”.

New York Post ‘s Boston Bombing “BAG MEN” Cover

Three days after the Boston terror blast, Yassine Zaimi and Salaheddin Barhoum were depicted as “BAG MEN” in a full-page color photo on the cover of The New York Post. The sub-heading on the April 18, 2013, cover photo read: “Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon.” Inside, the Post published another photo of the men with red circles around their faces.

Glenn Beck’s Saudi Bomber Conspiracy

If the Post’s courtroom defense will be that reporters and editors simply followed the lead of law enforcement, what will Glenn Beck’s defense be in his Boston bombing-related libel case? Unlike the “BAG MEN” suit and the Post’s claim its reporters echoed investigators, Beck repeatedly attacked a 20-year-old Saudi national student living in Boston days after law enforcement had explicitly cleared him of any wrongdoing.

National Review’s “Climategate” Coverage

Unlike the two Boston bombing cases, the libel suit filed against National Review, as well as the conservative think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), involves a plaintiff who is likely considered to be a public figure, Penn State professor Michael Mann. Yet despite the higher burden of proof associated with that type of case, it continues to progress, surviving the Review’s attempts to have it thrown out.

n 2009, Mann found himself at the center of the so-called “Climategate” scandal when more than 1,000 emails were stolen from Britain’s University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, one of the world’s leading climate research institutions. Based on a gross misrepresentation of one of the emails, conservative critics falsely portrayed Mann as having corruptly manipulated his research to find evidence of global warming. The next year Penn State cleared Mann of any academic misconduct; at least six other institutions, including the Environmental Protection Agency, have conducted their own reviews of Mann’s work and found no wrongdoing.

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