Rush Limbaugh is in the news again and this time it’s not because he said something horribly insensitive, stupid, narrow-minded, and/or racist. It’s because someone else made up an insensitive, stupid, narrow-minded, and/or racist quote and attributed it to him.
Specifically, that someone was CNN’s Rick Sanchez, who claimed on air that Limbaugh said:
“I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
Ouch. Harsh words, whether Limbaugh said it or not. Check out the video here (the bogus Limbaugh quote comes up about 1 minute and 14 seconds in).
Limbaugh was understandably steamed at the fraudulent attribution. No one wants to be called a racist, unless of course they actually are one, then they’re probably okay with it.
So now the inevitable question being asked by political pundits around the country, “Will Rush Limbaugh sue for slander?”
The answer (in my opinion anyway): probably not. Rush will probably just want some sort of apology from Sanchez and CNN, which he already received via Twitter, though he’d probably would want more of a formal one. If anything, he’ll just use it to further push his far-right republican conservative agenda. “More evidence of liberal bias, using me as a target to demonize…blah blah,” is probably how it will go down.
Though if he did sue, he probably wouldn’t have too tough of a time convincing a jury to award him money. Since he’s (arguably) a celebrity, he’d be considered a public figure and would have to satisfy the higher actual malice standard set out in The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan in order to prevail on a defamation lawsuit against CNN and Sanchez. Basically he’d have to prove that the CNN and/or Sanchez knowingly or recklessly made false defamatory statements about him. And in light of the fact that the CNN Twitter post admitted to this, it would at least appear that Rush has a good case. Though CNN could probably throw up some defense by publicly admitting and correcting their mistake, in my opinion it looks like Limbaugh would have a strong case.
Celebrities have it tougher when it comes to proving libel and defamation – it’s one of the few times where all us little people have an edge. All we have to do, essentially, is prove the false statement damaged our reputation. Though it may seem like defamation wouldn’t be a huge problem for non-public figures, LegalMatch does receive its fair share of defamation lawsuits. So don’t be afraid to press your rights. Unless you’re Rush Limbaugh, in which case you should probably reevaluate your life and try to figure out why people would so naturally believe you’d make such an outlandish racist statement.