Latest Trump tirade about libel laws stresses need for stronger protections for free press

President Donald Trump is once again railing against libel laws calling them “a sham and a disgrace.” He pledged to do something about them after his lawyers threatened a suit against Michael Wolff’s wildly popular book, published January 5, about the operations of the Trump While House. With the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in place, Times v. Sullivan, it is unlikely that Trump could succeed in weakening the protections for libel defendants.  (CNBC, January 11, 2018, by Christina Wilkie)

Trump said in the presidential campaign that he would like to examine the nation’s libel laws but also admitted that he might be in trouble if they were changed. He is infamous for promoting the falsehood that Barack Obama was Africa-born and that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped in the assassination of President Kennedy. (The New York Times, January 10, 2018, by Michael M. Grynbaum)

Rick Blum of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, January 9, 2018, wrote that while Trump’s libel lawsuits are regularly dismissed, his and other’s suits, especially those brought by wealthy plaintiffs, pose a threat to the media. Libel laws are state laws that do not always provide adequate protections for those trying to defend their free speech rights. The country needs stronger anti-SLAPP laws.

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