Oct 262012

Author: Allison LeCain

From day one, as a journalism student, I heard professors ranting about libel, libel, and more libel. And yet, the presidential candidates can’t seem to get enough of it.

For those of you not familiar with the term, libel is the publication of untrue, defamatory statements. Now if you ask me, each presidential candidate is guilty on multiple accounts.

First consider the attack ads approved by Romney and Obama. Many of the statements made are taken out of context, making them virtually untrue, or are just completely made up.  Since these false ads can damage the reputation of the other candidate, they are considered defamatory and could be libelous.

English: Barack Obama delivers a speech at the...

English: Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Southern California (Video of the speech) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next, think back to the many speeches that the candidates made around the country as they rallied to get votes. Many of the ‘facts’ they shouted out about their competitor weren’t completely true. Libel could apply here again.

Lastly, in the past three debates, (with the exception of Obama on the first debate), both candidates made claims about their opponent’s policies that were skewed to make their opponent sound unappealing. While each candidate had a chance to defend themselves, (even though Obama didn’t during the first debate), the false comments made could surely damage their voter approval.

Clearly this presidential campaign has been jam-packed with libel, but it’s not the first time this has happened. Making false remarks about a presidential competitor has been a trend ever since Washington took the title.

So the true question is, how do they get away with it?

Well, there’s this thing called malice. In order for a public official, such as Obama or Romney, to successfully sue for libel, they must be able to prove actual malice. This means, that the person who published the libelous statement must have had a reckless disregard for the truth and have intended to cause the person harm.

While I think everyone can agree that the candidates know that some of their facts are not true, they are not actually trying to harm the other person. They’re just simply trying to beat them at this election game.

So to all the political science majors out there, or anyone with as aspiration to be president someday, always remember the laws of libel so that you don’t get your butt sued off.

  No Responses to “Too School for Cool: A lesson on libel for future presidents”

  1. Really good article! Thanks!

  2. I find it funny that Allison wrote about libel and malice since she’s guilty of it herself. Worse that Obama or Romney.

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