Donald Trump can’t change the libel laws

Donald Trump can’t change the libel laws because they are based on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.


Every person has a duty to refrain from uttering false statements about others. Libel is a defamatory written statement while slander is a defamatory oral statement. Under common law a person could sue another person for defamation of character if the oral or written statement was false, negligently made and it caused financial injury.

Public officials and Public Figures

In New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), the SCOTUS modified the common law rule to require public officials to prove that a false statement about them was uttered or published with ‘actual malice.’ That is, that the person or news organization knowingly or recklessly uttered or published the false statement and the statement caused financial injury. Actual malice is more difficult to prove. The SCOTUS decided to make it more difficult for public officials to prove up a case for defamation in order to protect the media’s right to free speech and free press in service to the public’s right to know what their public officials are doing. The Court reasoned that the easier to prove negligence standard unnecessarily restricted the flow of information in a competitive environment to be the first to break a story.

Congress cannot pass a law that restores the negligence standard because the actual malice standard is based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Only the SCOTUS can change the law and it has shown no inclination to do so since it decided New York Times in 1964.

In fact, in Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), the SCOTUS extended the actual malice test to public figures.


Donald Trump is a public figure who hopes to become a public official. He can attempt to intimidate journalists from reporting about him by threatening to sue them for statements he dislikes, but he will be wasting his time and making a fool out of himself. Heightened media scrutiny comes with the territory when you are running for president. The reporters and the organizations they work for know the rules.

He needs to stop whining and deal with it.

20 Responses to Donald Trump can’t change the libel laws

  1. Trained Observer says:

    Trump doing a magnificent job of clearing the path for HRC as president.

    • girlp says:

      Good, rather have Bernie but HRC is better than any of the repukelicans running today.

    • gblock says:

      Yes, some of the people that I know take the optimistic view that if either Trump or Cruz gets the Repub nomination (which seems likely at this point) it will improve the chances of the Democrat (probably HRC) being elected. That may be true, but the chance of either of these goons actually becoming president is high enough that I find the prospect really scary.

  2. bettykath says:

    Trump and libel – he needs to be careful what he wishes for considering all the stuff he’s been throwing out about the other candidates.

    • girlp says:

      Trump may have Federal Rico charges in the very near future according to Lawrence O’Donnell, then we would most likely have to worry about the other sociopath Cruz.

  3. gblock says:

    Other than Trump derailing his own campaign by self-imploding (which I’m surprised hasn’t happened already, given all that he’s said and done) or deciding to take his ball and go home, is there any likely path at this point that would keep the nomination from him? The only clear one seems to be if two or more other major contenders (probably Rubio and Cruz, the way things are going) decide to join together and one of them drops out and throws his delegates to the other. Is that at all likely?

    • Malisha says:

      I dunno. They’re all Repugnicans, so probably they have no gene for “working together for the common good.” They DO know how to “gang up” on people but they also never “try to deprive really rich people of anything.” So now they’re kinda in a tight spot. If it weren’t potentially so awful I would find it funny.

      • girlp says:

        So basically the RepubliKKKans have a choice between 2 sociopaths and a robot…. Great. I’m hoping Bernie can pull this off but if he can’t I’m still voting for Clinton better the devil you know.

  4. Malisha says:

    Although Trump cannot change the libel laws, I am sure that if he becomes president, it will be downright dangerous to speak against him because people will get killed doing so, and the police will ALWAYS be exonerated because they were always acting in self-defense against a dangerous lunatic. I wish this were hyperbole, but remember what Trump said when it was pointed out to him that Putin had journalists killed? “At least he’s a leader.”

    • girlp says:

      I don’t know if he would last that long and executive orders are limited and he is corrupt and truly believes he is above the law, that includes international law. I learned the other day the military can reject his orders if they violate the law. This is really a troublesome time…. A time invented by the republiKKKan it took over 30 years for them to create this and people still trust them. Smh

  5. bettykath says:

    Trump has gotten a huge amount of free press (Jill Stein would love just a piece of it) because he puts on a good show and the ratings respond. If the media had been a bit more responsible he wouldn’t be seen as the wagon everyone wants to jump on.

    Democrats pander to minorities. Trump is overtly racist and the Republicans who have been covertly racist with their dog whistles for decades are eating it up.

    Romney is pushing him for his tax returns. I think that’s a good idea. He probably pays a tax rate that’s less than Romney’s 14%.

    • gblock says:

      On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, they talked about the tax return issue in one segment. Ted Cruz said something to the effect that there might be something on there that he would choose to hide and that we might want to know about. The example that he gave was that maybe Trump made donations to Planned Parenthood. Of all the things that Trump could be hiding, he really thinks this is the important one to focus on?

  6. Malisha says:

    If I live to be 100, still I will probably never understand what makes people fall in thrall to an obvious fraud. And this guy! An obvious fraud with an orange orangutang on his head??? What is it with people? Only because Fellini has died am I able to regard these things as actually HAPPENING; otherwise I would be SURE it was another one of his dream sequences, gone viral.

    • gblock says:

      Trump is like a playground bully. Most of what he says in his speeches seems to be name-calling, scapegoating, and bragging. I suppose that the appeal is that some people like that he will say publicly what they would like to say, but I don’t see why so many people seem to think that this makes him qualified to be President.

  7. racerrodig says:

    Here’s my take on the reality of Trump. Back in the 80’s, he was a major player with the USFL. He decided to take on the NFL in several ways.

    No football league can compete financially with the NFL as to what a team can afford to pay the players, build stadiums, and put on a show like the NFL does. Look at what they spend on the Super Bowl halftime alone.

    The USFL Championship game had, I dunna know…..The James P. Lick High School Marching Band or something. The NFL spends millions. A 30 second TV ad is 5 million and it’s cultivated a Super Bowl cool commercial aspect they’re so big.

    Trump decided to push the signing of Georgia running back Hershel Walker to his team for way more than the budget allowed. Trump tried to compete on other levels as well and what happened.

    Trump was intent on having USFL games on Sunday and Monday night to compete with the NFL and tried to force a merger. This resulted in an anti trust lawsuit by Trump and the USFL……which they actually won. They won $3.00 – – – – Three Dollars !!!

    Trump single handedly caused the USFL to fold. When he wanted to sign talent to compete, it was a total flop. The USFL was actually a fun league to watch. It was exciting as far as the competitiveness and if The Donald hadn’t been such an arrogant ass, it would probably still be around.

    Now…………when anybody asks him about the USFL, he blames everyone else on the planet. When you look at the failures of his casinos, what he help ruin in Atlantic City, it makes one’s head spin.

    He made a racist comment about Mexican immigrants and even though he owns 17 golf courses, several have filed for bankruptcy. They won’t hold one of the major PGA events anymore on his courses as a result.

    Trump for President ????

    Look at the way he talks to the majority of people. Even his stupid TV show is a joke. Now, Reagan was an actor and before that a radio guy. But please………..The Donald. If us working class people think the economy is bad now, just wait. Historically the rich make things better for their peers, not our peers. He’s supposed to serve our best interest.

    • Interesting. I vaguely recall the USFL and the Herschell Walker signing but that’s about it. I haven’t followed Trump’s career. All I remember is failed businesses, commercial bankruptcies, trophy wives for adornment, a reality show and a loud boisterous personality in love with himself and bragging constantly. During the campaign, which I have followed, I’ve figured out he’s a narcissist who plays to his audience delivering what they want, red meat.

      I’m seriously considering moving out of the country if he wins the election.

      This is so unreal.

      Mitch McConnell said he won’t work with him if he’s elected and he encouraged the GOP senators who are up for reelection to feel free to separate themselves from him.

      • racerrodig says:

        For all his millions, he’s had more bankruptcies than one could ever imagine. When cornered on them, he blows them off and goes down the “…it’s just business, it wasn’t a personal bankruptcy, so it’s not me” avenue.

        The business loss is other peoples money… banks and stockholders money. He rakes it in, raids it, then blows it off.

        I don’t really care about his real estate profits…..good for him. When he dumps a business, it causes job loss, economic problems on the local level and all that, which doesn’t care about. I live 30 miles from Atlantic City and know a lot of his ex-employees who are out of work because he overdoes it with the Casinos them they fold.

        I can’t see him winning but then again……….what do I know.

        He’ll create another financial crisis then order the Treasury to print another 50 Billion to keep the banks afloat. He’ll see to it some of his interests benefit. I also see his buddies getting govt contracts and business as well. We’ll be back to the $75.00 toilet seats being purchased by the military along with the $65.00 hammer.

    • gblock says:

      I only vaguely remember the USFL, but it seems to me that it was only around for a few years. Whatever Trump’s responsibility at the time, it was on shaky enough ground that we really can’t conclude that it would have become solid enough to stay around long term.

      Reagan did get his start as an actor, but by the time he became President, he had been Governor of California for 8 years. I didn’t like Reagan as president, but unlike Trump, he understood the political system and what it takes to work with people.

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