Protecting Democracy: The Power of Defamation Cases in the Fight Against Election Subversion
As the 2024 presidential race approaches, groups committed to safeguarding US democracy are taking a fresh approach to combat the threat of subversion. They are now harnessing the little-used law of defamation as a formidable weapon against Donald Trump, his allies, and right-wing media outlets. This strategy aims to hold accountable those who attempted to overturn the 2020 election results, with figures like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Lindell, and Dinesh D’Souza facing high-profile defamation lawsuits. Even prominent media organizations like Fox News and Gateway Pundit are now being held responsible for spreading false information.
Defamation Cases in the Spotlight
The mounting legal consequences for those involved in election denial are becoming increasingly evident. Giuliani has already been found liable for defaming two election workers in Georgia, potentially facing significant punitive damages. Meanwhile, Lindell is grappling with multimillion-dollar defamation suits filed by Dominion and Smartmatic for spreading baseless claims about rigged Voting machines. Fox News, after broadcasting similar lies, was ordered to pay Dominion a staggering $788 million in a settlement reached earlier this year.
The Power of Lawfare
Interviewed by The Guardian, Lindell characterized the surge of defamation cases as “lawfare,” a tactic not seen in the US since the late 1700s. The objective of these lawsuits is two-fold: to seek justice for the victims of intentional defamation and to deter any future attempts to subvert elections. By demonstrating that spreading intentional lies carries severe consequences, those filing the lawsuits hope to discourage any potential assaults on the 2024 presidential race, where Trump is expected to be the Republican candidate once again.
Protect Democracy Takes Action
Protect Democracy, a non-partisan advocacy group, is at the forefront of the efforts to combat election denial. With five ongoing defamation suits targeting individuals and media outlets that propagated false information, they are determined to establish accountability. Giuliani, Gateway Pundit, and Project Veritas are among the defendants facing legal action. D’Souza, known for his discredited film “2000 Mules,” is also being sued for falsely accusing a Georgia voter of illegal ballot deposition. Kari Lake, a prominent Arizona Republican, is another defendant facing a defamation suit for her baseless claims about the 2022 governor’s race.
Defamation Law as a Deterrent
Traditionally, defamation law in the US has been sparingly employed due to its stringent requirements. Under the 1964 supreme court ruling New York Times Co v Sullivan, plaintiffs must prove “actual malice” on the part of the accused. However, these lawsuits seek to demonstrate that spreading intentional lies is not protected by the first amendment right to free speech. Public figures can only prevail if it can be shown that the statements made were knowingly false or made recklessly without regard for the truth.
The Trial of Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani will be the first defendant from Protect Democracy’s cases to face trial. In December, a federal court in Washington DC will convene to determine the damages Giuliani will have to pay. The allegations against him involve a sustained smear campaign against two poll workers in Georgia. Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss were falsely accused by Giuliani of criminal misconduct during the 2020 absentee ballot count. These unfounded claims led to a prolonged period of harassment, including death threats, against the two women.
Challenging the First Amendment Defense
While most defendants have invoked their first amendment right to free speech in their defense, Protect Democracy argues that this right does not shield intentional falsehoods. Kari Lake, for instance, claims that the lawsuit against her infringes on her free speech rights to discuss the integrity of the 2022 election. However, defamation lawsuits aim to establish that knowingly spreading lies with the potential to destroy lives and reputations is not protected by the first amendment.
Defamation lawsuits are poised to become a powerful deterrent against election subversion. By holding individuals and media outlets accountable for their intentional dissemination of falsehoods, Protect Democracy and other advocacy groups hope to safeguard the integrity of future elections. As the lawsuits progress and the legal consequences mount, those contemplating similar assaults on the 2024 presidential race may think twice before spreading lies and jeopardizing US democracy. The power of defamation law is finally being harnessed as a vital tool in the fight against election subversion.
Read More of this Story at www.theguardian.com – 2023-11-18 12:03:00
Read More US Media News