Libel, the Media, and Constitutional Legitimacy
Note: An early transcript of the podcast courtesy is linked here. This text may not be in its final form and accuracy may vary, and it may be updated or revised in the near future.
Cries of “defamation” came from the White House following the publication of in-depth reporting on President Donald Trump and his finances by The New York Times, but this is not the first time the president has expressed criticism of the press or U.S. libel laws. Adam Liptak of The New York Times and NYU Law Professor Richard Epstein join Jeffrey Rosen to explain what libel is and how laws against libel and slander fit within the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and the free press. This wide-ranging discussion also delves into how facts play a role in the law and media in a “post-truth society,” how online platforms filter news, and the legitimacy of the media and the Supreme Court in the wake of heated coverage of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle.
Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court for The New York Times and writes Sidebar, a column on legal developments. He practiced law for 14 years, including in the Times’ legal department, before joining its news staff in 2002. He was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting. He has taught courses on the Supreme Court and the First Amendment at several law schools, including Yale and the University of Chicago.
Richard Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law. He has served as the Peter and Kirstin Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution since 2000. Epstein is also the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. He writes a weekly column for Defining Ideas and is a contributor to Ricochet.com and Forbes.com.
Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.”
- New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)
- Post Publishing Co. v. Hallam (6th Cir. 1893) discussed in Donald L. Magnetti, “Truth Will Out—Or Will It,” 52 Missouri Law Review (1987).
- Communications Decency Act of 1996
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- Freedom of Speech and the Press by Geoffrey R. Stone and Eugene Volokh
This episode was engineered by David Stotz and produced by Lana Ulrich, Madison Poulter, Jackie McDermott, and Scott Bomboy. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich and Sheldon Gilbert.
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