Does "Public Figure" Mean "Brown Person Arbitrarily Noticed By Glenn Beck"?

Glenn Beck does not impress me as a free speech hero. After all, he brought a World Intellectual Property Organization suit against a satirical website that annoyed him and got thoroughly curb-stomped by Marc Randazza, as one does.

Now he's in federal court, defending his right to accuse random people of terrorism when the government has tragically failed to perceive their clear dangerousness and terroristyness.

The case involves Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, a young Saudi student injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. Law enforcement rather quickly decided that he was a witness, not a suspect. But Glenn Beck knows better than professional law enforcement — which after all is run by an oligarhy — and proceeded to tell his viewers that Alharbi was surely involved in the bombing as a financial backer. Why would the authorities lie and conceal Alharbi's wrongdoing? Do you even have to ask? Because Obama. Haven't you ever watched Glenn Beck?

Alharbi sued Beck for defamation in federal court in Boston. The complaint is here. Now Beck has moved to dismiss, asserting that (1) Alharbi should be treated as a public figure, (2) if Alharbi is a public figure he has to prove that Beck acted with "actual malice," and (3) Alharbi hasn't alleged any facts that support actual malice. The motion is well-briefed on both sides: here are the motion to dismiss, Alharbi's opposition, and Beck's reply.

In defamation, deciding the applicable standard often effectively decides the case. The "actual malice" standard applicable to defamation suits by public figures is very difficult to meet. If the court treats Alharbi as a public figure, it will be extremely difficult for him to prove that Beck either knew that what he was saying was wrong or deliberately ignored signs that he was wrong.

The case likely turns, then, on whether Alharbi should be treated as a public figure. He might be one voluntarily, on the theory that he made himself a public figure through some voluntary contact with the press. That's the theory on which Richard Jewell and Stephen Hatfill lost. Alternatively, he might be an "involuntary public figure" — a fairly narrow category applied to people thrust against their will into a spectacle.

Beck's argument is that Alharbi spoke to the press, becoming a voluntary public figure, and that he was at the center of a dramatic event and an investigation, making him an involuntary public figure. Alharbi argues that Beck is bootstrapping, and that Beck's argument suggests that Beck can unilaterally transform a target into a public figure and then defame him with near-impunity. Beck's argument is more than a little unsettling and unflattering:

In addition, Plaintiff embarked on a course of conduct that was reasonably likely to result in public attention and comment on his background, activities, and immigration status. By behaving suspiciously at the Marathon finishing line when the bombs detonated (Ex. 2, DEF 0046), thereby causing his detention and a background check by law enforcement, Plaintiff became the focal point of an ongoing exchange between executive and legislative branch officials at the highest levels of the United States government regarding the efficacy of its counterterrorism program.

That's particularly disturbing because, as Alharbi points out, most of it is apparently bullshit.

I think Alharbi has, and should have, the edge on this motion. Even though federal courts increasingly require plaintiffs to plead specific facts to support their accusations, in this case the fact that Beck continued to accuse Alharbi after law enforcement cleared him is likely enough to permit an inference of actual malice, which is enough to defeat a motion to dismiss. Whether Alharbi made himself a public figure by talking to the press is best resolved through a summary judgment motion after discovery into the nature and extent of his press contacts.

Note that Alharbi attracted Beck's rather wandering and disturbed attention because someone in federal law enforcement leaked to the media that he was being investigated. If the "involuntary public figure" standard is applied to Alharbi, it effectively means that law enforcement can make you into a public figure through leaking information about you being investigated, even if you've done nothing wrong. I've long thought that journalists have a blind spot about leaks, in that they convince themselves that the information in the leak is the story, not the government's willingness to harm someone by leaking. Journalists tend to be interested in the story "X is being investigated," and not so much in the story "law enforcement is willing to leak suspects to test the waters or soften them up or for other tactical advantages," which strikes me as credulous and submissive to power.

The public figure rule and the actual malice standard should be applied broadly to maximize protection of free speech. But Glenn Beck's bizarre and irrational conduct here is disturbing, as is the leak that led to it.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Matthew Cline says

    Even though federal courts increasingly require plaintiffs to plead specific facts to support their accusations, in this case the fact that Beck continued to accuse Alharbi after law enforcement cleared him is likely enough to permit an inference of actual malice, which is enough to defeat a motion to dismiss.

    So "I don't care what the 'facts' say, my gut says that X is true" doesn't cut it as a defense against actual malice?

  2. Resolute says

    When it comes to …people… like Glenn Beck, the standard should be to assume he is acting with malice until proven otherwise. Hopefully a court of law will come to the same conclusion in this case as the court of public opinion has with regards to Beck in general.

  3. Chris R. says

    God the moron fueled rage I encountered when I expressed a lack of trusting when this guy was "named" a subject initially is all coming back to me now. The kid was injured in the blast, if he were financing the attack did he not buy the gold package in which he was told where not to stand?

  4. nl7 says

    My distrust of criminal investigations is bumping into my general sense that there shouldn't be a tort called defamation that mostly exists so certain people can recover for hurt feelings.

  5. says

    Chris R.:

    Actually, it was part of his plan to be injured, that way he could get off scott free. Other than being injured, arrested, and publicly shamed and libeled, that is.

  6. Matthew Cline says

    @Chris R:

    The kid was injured in the blast, if he were financing the attack did he not buy the gold package in which he was told where not to stand?

    Well, to play devil's advocate:

    1) He could have had an attack of stupidity, which happens to us all.

    2) The ones who planted the bombs could have, at the last minute, changed where they planted the bombs without telling him.

  7. Dictatortot says

    So "I don't care what the 'facts' say, my gut says that X is true" doesn't cut it as a defense against actual malice?

    Matthew: Pretty much, unless the subject is a public figure (of whom a slightly thicker skin is expected) … and calling Alharbi a "public figure," as Ken points out, would be a mighty stretch indeed.

    And as you ably point out above, history is replete with would-be bombers who weren't smart enough to evade injury or unintentional death from their own attacks (not that that lends Beck's particular accusations any weight).

  8. Sami says

    If declaring someone to be a terrorist and continuing to assert, in public and via mass media, that they are a terrorist despite their having been cleared of involvement in the terrorist attack in which they were actually injured does not count as defamation, what the fuck does?

  9. xtmar says

    In Beck's defense, while being cleared by the police is obviously a good thing for Alharbi's case, the police have been wrong before, and have come back to suspects whom they've previously cleared.

  10. melK says

    So…

    If you ever become a Public Figure, for any reason are you a Public Figure for any context, and until the end of time? Or can you resume the status of Private Figure (except in relation to those specific circumstances)?

    John Glenn, for example, remains a Public Figure as an Astronaut, and perhaps as a Senator.

    But would John Glenn be considered a Public Figure in a debate about, say, plumbing disasters?

    Would Katie-on-the-corner (cat rescuer and savior to old ladies in Village) be considered a Public Figure, 40 years after the fact?

  11. Josh C says

    I would feel more comfortable with Ken's (coherent) reasoning here if it also applied to targets of Nancy Grace, Jesse Jackson, and others of their ilk.

    Separately, the old layout was immeasurably better on mobile. Slight preference for the old on desktop, but mobile is evening-and-day (not quite 'night-and…').

  12. MDW says

    I would feel more comfortable with Ken's (coherent) reasoning here if it also applied to targets of Nancy Grace, Jesse Jackson, and others of their ilk.

    Is there any reason to think it doesn't?

  13. sorrykb says

    @xtmar: By that logic, the police appear to have cleared you and I as suspects, but they've been wrong before, so Glenn Beck would be perfectly right in calling us terrorists. In fact, with two of us, we're now apparently a terrorist organization.

    JoshC: If your concern is that Ken is some diehard liberal (and I think there's nothing wrong with being a liberal — I'm liberal myself but not party-loyal), all I can say is… um, have you read the Popehat twitter feed?

  14. TTC says

    Yellow card for unnecessary race baiting in the headline.

    I think Ken should do a follow up to this post vis a vis the Zimmerman defamation trial. It would be a good way to explore the involuntary public figure issue, and I think Zimmerman had a much stronger inference for actual malice against NBC, then Alharbi has against Beck.

  15. Chris R. says

    All good points if I wanted to drink the koolaid. I still would argue a financier of plots wouldn't be at the actual plot. It's like buying girl scout cookies for terrorism, no one would pay if they had to go to the meetings… except people you wouldn't want at the meetings lol.

  16. Nullifidian says

    Josh,
    I'm curious about why you're yoking Nancy Grace together with Jesse Jackson. Is there any way in which Nancy Grace's guilty-even-after-proven-innocent, don't-need-evidence-because-my-gut-tells-me style of 'reportage' can be construed as being the liberal position? Her attitude is something I associate with reactionaries who think that the John Birch Society has gone soft.

  17. says

    The really sad thing is that Glenn Beck is a public figure. I would find it difficult to watch him flailing around trying to make logical arguments even if I agreed with his general point of view. It's bad enough putting people with paranoid mental illness in front of a chalkboard for other people's entertainment, but that viewers treat what he says seriously is surely a sign of the imminent apocalypse.

  18. says

    And as far as the layout, for folks of a certain age with progressive lenses, reading it on a full size screen means a lot of wagging my head side to side since I can't see that far side to side through the magnifying portion of the eyeglasses.

  19. ZarroTsu says

    Headcanon:

    Somewhere, at the side of a road, there is a large slab of granite with the word "AMERICA" etched into it in large, bold font. Perched next to this slab is Marc Randazza, wearing a pair of boots that say "JUSTICE" on the soles.

  20. Connie says

    I look forward to the day when Glenn Beck is no longer a public figure and fades into a well deserved obscurity and silence.

  21. Dan Weber says

    In addition to the other points, it's not unheard of for bombers to give the bomb to a patsy, tell him to drop it someplace and get away, and then remotely blow him up while he's still carrying it.

  22. Goober says

    Glen Beck has a wonderful debating technique that I call "you can't prove it isn't true and/or you haven't spoken out in response to my ludicrous allegations/theories, so therefore my allegations/theories are proven true!"

    One who cannot see the weakness inherent in such a method probably would call him self a beck fan.

    As for David Byron, may I suggest you purchase conservative bifocals instead? They are very superior to the dirty hippy progressive variety, and you can't prove otherwise so you must concede that I'm correct!

  23. Republicus says

    Journalists tend to be interested in the story "X is being investigated," and not so much in the story "law enforcement is willing to leak suspects to test the waters or soften them up or for other tactical advantages," which strikes me as credulous and submissive to power.

    Or even that someone in law enforcement was trying to impress a journalist who was buying him drinks. Ambition and idiocy are also often overlooked.

  24. Just a thought says

    Resize your tab/browser. Signed, a wearer of progressive trifocals.

    Oh dear. This is just the kind of arrogant response one expects from web designers who know best and I'm sad to see it here: "you change your browser to fit our site." Sorry, but no.

    This site now has text larger than any other I regularly visit and lots more whitespace. I do realise I can "fix" this by not visting Popehat, but that would be cutting off my nose to spite my face, so I will live with the layout, but I certainly am not changing my browser to suit it.

  25. says

    @Just a thought:

    Clearly you haven't reflected much on the nature of the problem. Annie uses browser A, sizes it to her liking, and has subjective preference A1. Billy uses tablet B and has subjective preference B2. Carina relies on browser C at work, maximized, but prefers browser D at home and sizes it to fill half her widescreen. Demetrius users a phone and prefers large fonts with serifs.

    What are the polarized approaches to solving this problem? ( a ) a large set of styles and directives tailored to each combination of viewing technology and preference; ( b ) a single style versatile enough to be adequate on most of the viewing platforms and for most of the subjective preferences.

    When we're funded in such measure that we can sustain a squad of front-end developers to tweak the site along with evolving browser implementations and viewing preferences, we'll do ( a ). In the meantime, we'll aim for Pareto-adequacy with ( b ). (As you may notice in reading comments in the theme thread, most of the guidance has been constructive, but as soon as we tweak some minor feature Northward to please one person, another person with a strong preference for South comes along to object.)

    BTW, you can easily resolve your "size of font" issue by altering the size of the font as displayed in your browser– a feature available in browsers for at least five years. If your mouse has a wheel, try holding down your Control or Command key and rolling that wheel. Changing your own browser to accommodate your own preferences for viewing has always been a key feature of browsers.

    "you change your browser to fit our site." Sorry, but no.

    Have you ever wondered why windows are resizable? Why browser windows are resizable? Why browsers have settings? :) Did you resize a browser or tab while viewing this site, just to see what would happen?

    As for your being sad to see, here, something you take as a demonstration of "just the kind of arrogant response one expects from" your hobgoblin… I'm confused. Are you expressing shock that a Popehat author would seem arrogant? Defiant? Dismissive? Exuberantly condescending? Flagrantly inconsiderate of the fee-fees of others? If so, welcome! I perceive you are new to the site.

  26. David C says

    @melK:

    If you ever become a Public Figure, for any reason are you a Public Figure for any context, and until the end of time?

    There's something called a "limited-purpose public figure". (Which wouldn't really help the guy in this case, because any public-figure-ness would be in regards to those terrorism allegations.)

    But would John Glenn be considered a Public Figure in a debate about, say, plumbing disasters?

    In the case of John Glenn, I think he's sufficiently famous and was also an elected official, so he'd be considered a public figure for all purposes. He wouldn't be "limited-purpose".

  27. Just a thought says

    BTW, you can easily resolve your "size of font" issue by altering the size of the font as displayed in your browser– a feature available in browsers for at least five years. If your mouse has a wheel, try holding down your Control or Command key and rolling that wheel. Changing your own browser to accommodate your own preferences for viewing has always been a key feature of browsers.

    Have you ever wondered why windows are resizable? Why browser windows are resizable? Why browsers have settings? :) Did you resize a browser or tab while viewing this site, just to see what would happen?

    Curiously enough, I am fully aware of these abilities, and have made full use of them to size my browser and fonts so they work perfectly well apart from Popehat which has oversized text since the update.

  28. John O. says

    @nl7 There probably shouldn't be a tort called defamation because Snooki is upset that someone reporting on her slutting it up last weekend. But this man has a genuine grievance… Glenn Beck's actions will cause this man to be recognized by others for many years, and not a positive recognition either. They'll not remember details of Glenn Beck's rants, just the vague idea that this man was a terrorist who somehow got off on a technicality or whatever. This means employers won't call him back after interviews or job applications. It means negative attention from racists and white supremacists and other "patriots", it means bad first impressions from business associates and deals gone bad, bad first impressions with girlfriends' families. It will mean jackass bank employees flag his accounts because they saw his picture on the Glenn Beck Circus Show. And in all likelihood, these things will happen even after he had thought himself finally through that. The man isn't a film, tv, or stage actor. He's not an officeholder. He doesn't model for magazines or runway shows. He's not a news anchor or meteorologist, and he doesn't attach his name as the author to printed books, newspaper articles, or sonnets. He does not perform in stadiums as a professional athlete or musician. He seems like a typical person, the sort for which notoriety is an insufferable burden.

  29. Tim! says

    @David Byron:
    "An out" of what? Of the assertion that popehat has larger text by default than any arbitrary other website? That is what we in the profession call an objective fact: there's no out to get.

  30. says

    @Tim!, In truth, the original topic at hand was Alpha's remark about the width of the central column. The subsequent commenter's remark about font size was an aside addressed as such.

    Since you're among those "in the profession," Tim!, perhaps you'll appreciate the guidance (and font sizes) of this smattering of articles:

    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/07/16-pixels-body-copy-anything-less-costly-mistake/

    http://www.adaptistration.com/blog/2013/05/24/youre-still-using-12px-font-size/

    http://css-tricks.com/a-couple-of-best-practices-for-tablet-friendly-design/

    http://nuevvo.com/blog/item/88-web-typography-best-practices-and-common-pitfalls

    Cheers!

  31. freedomfan says

    I have to say, I am pretty happy with the new font sizes. One of my pet peeves are sites that have super tiny default fonts. I have set my preferred font size in my browser settings. I hate it when a site decides, in essence, "We don't care what size font the reader has chosen as comfortable to read, we are going to use this other size as the site's default because we think it's better for the page feng shiu." Of course, one's text size preference is subjective, but I am generally happier when a site respects the fact that I have chosen 16 pt Verdana (or whatever) and doesn't try and override it. BTW, I am not saying that every site should use large fonts. I am saying that sites should present most of the site's text in an unadjusted font size, so that the browser (the reader) generally picks the font size

  32. freedomfan says

    @Pablo, I would have to think that should be Beck's main line of defense. I don't put much trust in these government lists (I have doubts about any list where no one gets fired if someone is put on it without substantial evidence of actual criminality). But, it seems like Beck can say, "The government put him on a terrorist watch list. If the government admits that being on that list is meaningless, then he can sue them and I owe him an apology for believing the government. Either way, I shouldn't be liable because the government threw suspicion on someone, even if it later changed its tune." (To be clear: I am not saying I buy Beck's version of events. I'm just saying it seems like the government has given Beck some cover for putting it out there.)

    BTW, I also echo earlier comments about the odd title of this post. I read it and wondered, "What did Beck say that was racist?" But, there is nothing in the post that substantiates the implication that Beck went after Alharbi because of the color of his skin. Don't get me wrong: I have no idea where Beck is on race. But, why put that in the headline and then do nothing to back it up in the post?

    Meanwhile, regardless of his motivation, Beck didn't really "accuse random people of terrorism". He accused someone who was on a government watchlist, who was at the scene of a crime, and who was apparently (at least briefly) subject to some law enforcement scrutiny. At the end of the day, none of that means Alharbi is a terrorist and Beck seems irresponsible for adding up the essentially negligibly scary parts and publicly declaring that the whole must be horrific. But, Alharbi isn't exactly a random person, either.

  33. CJK Fossman says

    @freedomfan

    You don't suppose he got on the government watch list because he happened to be a person with an arabic sounding name near the bomb site?

    "He was at a crime scene." Yeah, victims usually are.

  34. Pablo says

    You shouldn't get flagged INA § 212(a)(3)(B) for having an Arabic name and being at a crime scene. If you did, the DHS Secretary would have some 'splaining to do to Congress. Which Janet Napolitano flatly refused to do.

    Hmmmm…. Administration officials stonewalling perfectly reasonable Congressional inquiries. Where have I heard that before?

  35. Aaron says

    Uhhh I actually watch/listen to Glenn, he tends to throw out a good number of theories and say THEORY a zillion times over whenever stuff like this happens. Most of the conspiracy cropped up when he met with the Saudi Prince and was claimed to be getting deported which turned out not to be true.

    Doing a bit of googling heck you find this on Glenn's website.
    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/04/18/ice-official-responds-to-blaze-report-categorically-false/

    which links to this which has a complete timeline.
    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/04/18/report-saudi-national-ruled-out-as-suspect-in-boston-marathon-bombings-to-be-deported-on-national-security-grounds-next-week/

    I remember them talking about the aftermath on the radio too on how the source turned up false.

    But it's pretty easy to pull someone out of context when they have a 3 hour radio show and a Tv show every day.

  36. says

    I don't know how accurate the terrorist watchlist is. My brother has to allow extra time every time he flies because he has the same extremely common Irish name as a guy who was in the IRA 30 years ago.

    I'll wag my head back and forth rather than fiddle with the browser for one website. Lord knows my browser configuration already makes me almost uniquely identifiable ;) I like the width for displaying more content on other sites that use more of the horizontal screen real estate.

  37. Josh C says

    @Wick Deer
    Instead of searching every time, I usually just rely on having read the entire archives, plus several years' worth of twitter feed. Since you couldn't bother to read more than two words, I'm pretty comfortable with the respective positions of our feet, vis-a-vis our mouths.

    @Nullifidian
    I yoked them together based on their history of demagoguery and stirring up lynch mobs, not on political bias.
    (I originally listed Limbaugh in there as well, but thought he would make my point less clear because of the Sandra Fluke episode.)

    @MDW
    There's been a lot of commentary hereabouts on how terrible Nancy Grace is. But this is the first explicit condemnation I can recall of a talking head dragging someone into the public sphere. The reasoning is all sound; I'm just confused why this particular bridge was worth jumping off, and not any of the other fine bridges already crossed.

  38. Nullifidian says

    I yoked them together based on their history of demagoguery and stirring up lynch mobs, not on political bias.

    Fair enough, but do you think that there's a pro-demagoguery bias here at Popehat where people like Nancy Grace are given a pass?

    I can imagine Jesse Jackson being given a pass here because whatever you think of his speech, it still is just his speech and doesn't raise any legal issues. The writers here have been very consistent that free speech is a right even for assholes. So the only purpose in singling some egregious statement from Jackson would be to say, "See this guy? What an asshole!", and that's not really done here. I'm sure there are many other blogs where you could find that sort of commentary. In fact, I think that's most of them—at least on the blogs not dominated by cat pictures.

  39. CJK Fossman says

    @Nullifidian

    do you think that there's a pro-demagoguery bias here at Popehat where people like Nancy Grace are given a pass?

    No. Ken has pinned the "statist" tag on Nancy Grace. It's not a compliment.

  40. Nullifidian says

    CJK Fossman:

    I know he has, which is why I'm trying to get to the bottom of what Josh C. meant about being more comfortable with Ken's reasoning if it applied to Nancy Grace or Jesse Jackson, given that nothing Ken has ever said could lead one to believe that it doesn't.

    I'm open to correction, but I think this is going to basically reduce to a this-blog-doesn't-address-what-I-want-it-to-address complaint. The mention of demagoguery in Josh's last post makes me provisionally conclude that he thinks that this is why Beck is being mentioned. But Beck isn't being mentioned because he's a demagogue—he's been one for ages without attracting Popehat's notice—but because the argument he's offering would practically immunize anybody with a national platform from ever being sued for defamation. If Nancy Grace or Jesse Jackson have ever offered up this argument in equivalent circumstances, I haven't heard of it.

  41. Josh C says

    I don't think I've said or implied that Nancy Grace is good, or that Popehat authors are Nancy Grace fans. If I have accidentally praised Ms. Grace, here or elsewhere, I recant, repent, and reject her, and all her works, and all her empty promises, etc.

    However, florid condemnations of demagoguery are distinct from Ken's point here, regarding which standard should apply for defamation. Nancy Grace has similarly dragged individuals into the public arena in the past, and commentary here was combined to her (a) being generally terrible, and (b) shitting all over due process.
    So: what so special about Beck?

  42. Nullifidian says

    What's special about Glenn Beck is that he (or his lawyer) is so far the only one offering up the excuse that his national megaphone makes anyone he chooses to obsess over a "public figure", which would immunize Beck from all but the most egregious charges of defamation. The article isn't about people being dragged into the public eye, but about a legal argument that bootstraps from the fact that, having been dragged into the public eye, they are now public figures and must overcome the highest possible hurdles to prove a case of defamation. If Nancy Grace, Jesse Jackson, Johnny Depp, Eli Manning, Oprah Winfrey, or anyone else similarly blessed with national prominence were to make the same argument in equivalent circumstances, the same reasoning would apply. Is there any reason why you think it wouldn't? Do you think that Ken should have invented hypothetical scenarios featuring several different public figures all arguing the same way, even though the real case with Glenn Beck is clearly sufficient for his analysis?

    In all honesty, and I'm not trying to be insulting, I'm bewildered about what your point might be. I believe the difficulty might be that you're taking a legal analysis of the argument for an ethical judgment on the underlying facts. I don't think Ken is saying anything about whether people should be dragged against their will into the public eye and defamed. If the legal world went insane and left famous defamers this loophole, then noting that they had a defense in law wouldn't mean that their actions are thereby ethically defensible. In fact, beyond a few satirical jabs at Beck's paranoid style, there's actually very little about him as a personality pro or con. If you want that sort of thing, I think you're looking on the wrong blog.

  43. Tedderick says

    I occasionally read Limbaugh (but not often), he repeatedly calls the MSM out for the "seriousness of the charge" tactics that they use to attack any Republican candidate without any evidence. "Seriousness of the charge" is all that's needed to ensure a good and never-ending smear of a Republican by the media. Just make your claims as "serious" as possible, no need for facts or evidence.

    It seems the media has a different standard than many posters here. By the media's standard of "seriousness", Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi is a public figure by weight of seriousness, not evidence.

  44. Nullifidian says

    Tedderick, you actually gave the game away when you mentioned "any Republican candidate". Politicians are not private individuals, so any politician who thinks he's been defamed has to prove "actual malice". If they put themselves in the public eye by running for office, being on a sports team, making movies or TV shows, etc., then the standards for defamation are properly much higher than they are for someone just caught up in the whirlwind of circumstance. Otherwise, you couldn't say anything potentially controversial about a public figure and every news article would just be a glorified press release, instead of merely 95% of them. These aren't our standards alone but the legal standards for defamation and these standards protect reporters who discuss people who are willing public figures.

    Seriously, if you think the media is vulnerable to libel charges just because they report on unflattering allegations against Republicans (but against any GOP candidate? Please!), then go ahead and encourage them to file suit. Then you can see how many of their legal teams take you up on that offer. I'm willing to bet it will be a very low number.