In another Twitter attack on The New York Times, President Donald Trump today floated whether the U.S. should change its libel laws, a threat he made as a candidate that worried First Amendment advocates and could exacerbate tensions between his administration and the press.
In a word, yes. But if established procedures to change laws hold, it would be extremely difficult, requiring Supreme Court action or a change in the Constitution.
At the end of last week, the press reported on the jury verdict finding Rolling Stone magazine to be liable for defamation for its story, later retracted, about a gang rape at the University of Virginia. While this decision may well be appealed, it nevertheless is a finding of which broadcasters and other media companies need to take note, as it demonstrates that a sloppy review of the facts of a news report can lead to liability — even when reporting on public figures and important issues of wide public concern.