Defaming the Prince: Why the Media Is Entitled to Immunity from a Presidential Defamation Suit

37 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017 Last revised: 6 Jan 2018

Date Written: May 23, 2017

Abstract

This Article argues that press outlets should be completely immune from defamation suits initiated by a U.S. President. The Article presents the current defamation standard for public officials and explores the history of tense President-press relations. It then argues that defamation lawsuits are a dangerous tool in the hands of a sitting President and that the potential for abuse of these lawsuits makes them inconsistent with the First Amendment. In support of this claim, the author offers several doctrinal and policy rationales for eliminating the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan standard with respect to a sitting President in favor of a zero-liability rule. In a political climate dominated by charges of “Fake News” and with the election of a notoriously litigious President, now is an opportune time to explore the implications of allowing a sitting President to bring a cause of action for defamation.

Keywords: President, Presidency, Constitution, First Amendment, Politics, Free Speech, Free Press, Defamation, Libel, Slander, Trump, Nixon, New York Times, Sullivan

Suggested Citation

Zaharoff, Zachary, Defaming the Prince: Why the Media Is Entitled to Immunity from a Presidential Defamation Suit (May 23, 2017). 27-FALL Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 48. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2972893 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2972893

Zachary Zaharoff (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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