A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: libel

Angelina’s Lover Killed on Ski Trip?!

Brad and Angelina Snow

By Aleksandra Kravets

Relax. Brad Pitt is alive and well. But this is exactly how rumors start … and before you know it, they go mega-viral. Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Lady Gaga, and 50 Cent, are only a few of the stars who’ve been recently targeted by false death hoaxes.

Entrepreneur Rich Hoover is partly to blame.

Mr. Hoover created Fakeawish.com, which allows anyone to plug a celebrity’s name into an online generator that creates morbid celebrity headlines, from jet-ski crashes in the tepid waters off the Turks and Caicos to snowboarding accidents in the glacial Swiss mountains.

For him, “no publicity is bad publicity” isn’t just an adage, it’s a career ethos.  False death reports harm nobody. It may even help them.  After all, he says “it’s free press.”

And a media expert will back him up.

Mark Bell, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University who studies deception in digital media, told the New York Times that there’s “not a lot of cost, either financially, morally, legally or criminally” in what Mr. Hoover does.

We weren’t sold on that theory.

Back in September, Jerry Springer was cruising down the highway when he heard the news of his death in a car crash. He had to pull over to call home and pacify his shaken wife, who, as he’d expected, had heard the false report, too. But what if his wife had been the one driving when she heard the report… and became so distraught that she crashed her car? Or, upon hearing the terrible news, took her own life?

LASIS investigates.

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Slander Lawsuit Won’t be a Fluke

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By Ryan Morrison

Judging by ratings alone, Rush Limbaugh’s radio show was crumbling. Desperate for attention, Mr. Limbaugh took a ride on a carousel of scandals, ranging from claims that Michael J. Fox was faking symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to an ill advised reference to our president as “Barack the Magic Negro.”

Most recently, on February 29 Mr. Limbaugh not only decided to call Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown  law student testifying before Congress on contraception’s role in women’s health, a “slut” and a “prostitute,” but in the process, he also showed that he has zero understanding of how birth control works. That’s no big surprise, though, since facts seldom have any bearing on his opinions. His quote:

“Three thousand dollars for birth control in three years? That’s a thousand dollars a year of sex — and, she wants us to pay for it. … They’re admitting before congressional committee that they’re having so much sex they can’t afford the birth control pills! What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

Mr. Limbaugh seems to believe that you take some pills every time you have sex, when in fact, as every seventh grader who’s taken a health class knows, a woman on birth control takes one pill every day to adjust her hormones in a way that makes her unable to conceive. It doesn’t matter if she has sex once a year or ten times a day, it’s still one pill, every day.

Middle school science aside, Mr. Limbaugh still said some pretty terrible things about a woman who was testifying on the need of birth control for her friend who suffered from ovarian cancer. The media has advised Ms. Fluke to sue Mr. Limbaugh with some outlets already predicting an easily won slander suit. This latest offense in the Rush Limbaugh Horrors Hall of Fame has already cost him several of his biggest sponsors. And while fellow LASIS reporter Russell Smith disagrees, I think it will cost Mr. Limbaugh even more.   (more…)

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Rachel Uchitel v. The New York Post

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By Jaclyn Tyndorf

According to a New York Daily News article, Rachel Uchitel is considering taking legal action against the New York Post for misquoting her in a recent interview about the death of her fiancé.

In 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, a picture of Ms. Uchitel holding a sign of her missing fiancé appeared in newspapers. In 2009, Ms. Uchitel’s photo appeared in the press once again, this time because of her (alleged) affair with golfer Tiger Woods.

For the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the death of her fiancé, Ms. Uchitel granted an interview to the Post in which she was quoted as saying  “I’m almost happy it ended the way it did…It would have been tragic if we got into fights and then divorced” and that if fate had not intervened, she would now be “a fat housewife with three kids living in Sands Point, Long Island”. The interview was published in a preview article on September 6 and in a Page Six Magazine article on September 8.

Ms. Uchitel wants an apology and retraction from the paper. In a letter to the Post, Daniel Horowitz, Ms. Uchitel’s lawyer, stated that the article created a false impression of Ms. Uchitel’s relationship with her fiancé by taking Ms. Uchitel’s statements and assembling them in a way that didn’t accurately portray what she’d said. Mr. Horowitz is  also demanding that the Post hand over the videotape of its interview with Ms. Uchitel. The Post stands by its article.

Though the Daily News article noted Ms. Uchitel’s possible legal action, it did not discuss whether she has a valid legal claim. LASIS will analyze.   (more…)

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