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Politics

Could Kyle Rittenhouse win a defamation case against President Biden?

Dec 06, 2021

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In his first interview following a jury acquittal, Kyle Rittenhouse took aim at President Joe Biden. Rittenhouse has also criticized news outlets after some referred to him as a white supremacist and part of a militia.

“It’s actual malice, defaming my character for him [Biden] to say something like that,” Rittenhouse said while speaking with Fox News. “The lies that they [the media] can just get away with spreading is just sickening,” he said.

Several social media users have encouraged Rittenhouse to hold both news outlets and politicians accountable by suing for defamation.

Professor Eugene Volokh teaches First Amendment law at UCLA’s Law School and said it could be difficult for Rittenhouse to win a defamation case in court.

“It all depends on exactly what was said,” said Volokh. “What if someone called someone a racist or white supremacist or a communist or socialist? Generally speaking, courts say that these days, these terms are so lacking in any concrete meaning…They’re also opinions, just like calling someone an idiot is not libelous, but an opinion.”

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WITHIN MINUTES OF THE KYLE RITTENHOUSE ACQUITTAL, SOCIAL MEDIA USERS urged HIM TO RETURN TO COURT. THIS TIME TO TAKE ON  PRESIDENT BIDEN AND THE MEDIA FOR DEFAMING HIS CHARACTER.

“Absolutely white supremacy”

“Celebrate this little murderous White supremacist”

 Kyle Rittenhouse: “He’s a white supremacist… false. None of that is true. And the lies that they can just get away with spreading is just sickening.”

 Dan Abrams: ‘’Kyle Rittenhouse may end up suing people who said things about him that he says were inaccurate.”

SUING IS ONE THING, BUT COULD HE ACTUALLY WIN A DEFAMATION CASE?  

LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT.

I SPOKE WITH PROFESSOR EUGENE VOLOKH, WHO SPECIALIZES IN FIRST AMENDMENT LAW.

VOLOKH: “It would be hard for him to sue over just sort of general, one-word pejoratives… murderer, racist, white supremacist.”

At least twice during his Presidential campaign, Biden attacked Donald Trump for not condemning white supremacists.  

In doing so,  Biden implied that Rittenhouse, himself, was a white supremacist. 

First in this CNN video. 

President Biden: “Allegedly he’s part of a militia coming out in the state of Illinois. Have you ever heard the president say one negative thing about white supremacists? 

The other, in this tweet.   

“As we saw in Kenosha?”  

Rittenhouse: “It’s actual malice, defaming my character for him to say something like that.”

BUT IN ORDER TO WIN A DEFAMATION LAWSUIT – AGAINST THE PRESIDENT OR ANYONE – A PERSON MUST PROVE MULTIPLE points .

THE STATEMENTS MUST BE PUBLISHED, FALSE, malicious, cause HARM, AND BE presented as fact.

VOLOKH SAYS THAT LAST POINT- HOW IT’S PRESENTED- MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE.

Volokh:  “Let’s say someone says, I know that guy. I’ve, I’ve talked to him, and based on what he tells me he’s a murder. Well, that wouldn’t just be sounding like a statement of opinion.”

If it sounds like fact it COULD BE DEFAMATORY. BUT, MOST NAME-CALLING AND OPINIONS ARE NOT – their just that -opinion.

Volokh:  “What if someone called someone a racist or white supremacist or a communist or socialist? Generally speaking, courts say that these days, these terms are so lacking in any concrete meaning. They’re also opinions, just like calling someone an idiot is not libelous, but an opinion.”

One successful defamation lawsuit – was NICHOLAS SANDMANN- A THEN 16 YEAR OLD WHO WAS LABELED A RACIST AND AGGRESSOR AFTER THIS VIDEO CIRCULATED ONLINE.

HE SUCCESSFULLY SUED CNN FOR DEFAMATION AND IS ENCOURAGING RITTENHOUSE TO DO THE SAME.

BUT EVEN sandmann ADMITS IT’S AN UPHILL BATTLE:

Sandmann:“Unfortunately calling someone a racist or a white supremacist is an opinion protected by the First Amendment.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.