A First Amendment precedent?
by Mark Porter, Cannes, August 19, 2021
In America, it is very hard for government officials to win libel suits. All that could be about the change. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch says it is now time for the Supreme Court to reconsider press freedom, according to the New York Times.
“What started in 1964 with a decision to tolerate the occasional falsehood to ensure robust reporting by a comparative handful of print and broadcast outlets,” he wrote in a dissenting opinion, “has evolved into an ironclad subsidy for the publication of falsehoods by means and on a scale previously unimaginable.”
Judge Gorsuch is not alone in calling for reconsideration of the decision, which has only one rival as the most important legal triumph for the press in American history, the Pentagon Papers decision in 1971. Justice Clarence Thomas has repeatedly called for the Supreme Court to reconsider the rules introduced following the New York Times – Sullivan case, saying they were “policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.”
In March, Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit claimed that the press is biased and therefore doesn’t deserve continued protection. “Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), The New York Times and The Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets,” Silberman wrote. “And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction.”
For once, Donald Trump would not have a word of objection.