Block that quote!

When inaccurate quotes by a defendant can be defamatory

By John C. Henegan, Sr.
MPA General Counsel

2016 henegan, johnEarlier this year in Sioux City, Iowa, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — when describing the loyalty of his supporters — said that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”  The natural reaction upon first hearing this is stark incredulity: any political candidate who made such a statement would ordinarily be seriously politically damaged by it because it ordinarily raises fundamental questions about his character and judgment. A journalist’s first impulse would be to check its accuracy because the media’s publication of a materially inaccurate quote by a person that is defamatory can give rise to a claim for libel.

In the past there would ordinarily be no question about the authenticity of a person’s statement about herself. The journalist would obtain a quote directly from the person in response during an interview or would report about a statement the person published orally or in print.  As social media becomes in increasing source of information for journalists, ascertaining the authenticity of statements attributed to an individual on social media is going to become increasingly important. Continue reading “Block that quote!”