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Trump Twitter Rants Immune From Libel Under First Amendment Court Rules

Few people take much of what Trump says seriously, especially when he goes on one of his Twitter rants. According to Judge Barbara Jaffe, a New York judge, that includes allegedly defamatory remarks Trump makes about people who criticizes him.

In the spring of 2015, Cheryl Jacobus, a public relations consultant, was allegedly invited by Trump’s campaign to interview for the position of communications director for the campaign. Jacobus said she declined because she did not want to work for Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time.

More than six months later, Jacobus went on television to question Trump’s motives for threatening to not attend presidential debates, as well as his claims that he was completely funding his own campaign. She criticized his debating skills and insulted his intelligence. Trump, as always, fired back on Twitter.

Trump’s tweets claimed Jacobus “begged” his campaign to hire her and they turned her down. He also implied she was merely disgruntled from having been rejected and that was why she was making the negative comments about Trump on TV. Furthermore, Trump also claimed Jacobus had no credibility.

Jacobus responded by suing Trump for defamation. She alleged Trump’s tweets had questioned her professional integrity and that the claim they were based on (that she had “begged” him for a job and been turned down) was blatantly false.

Normally, a plaintiff’s primary job in a defamation lawsuit is to prove three things: 1) that the statement in question was false; 2) that the defendant knew it was false at the time they made the statement; and 3) that the false statements were made with the intention of causing the plaintiff emotional and/or financial harm. For a stronger case, a plaintiff might provide evidence of the emotional and/or financial harm they suffered as a direct result of the allegedly defamatory comments.

When the plaintiff is a public figure, proving defamation becomes that much harder. The First Amendment was specifically designed to protect the people’s right to speak freely about public figures, and since Jacobus made the initial statements about Trump on television, she might qualify for the higher burden of proof public figures have to bear as plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits.

But Judge Jaffe ruled in Trump’s favor.

She said the term Trump used (“begged”) was too loose and figurative a term to determine concretely whether the statement was true or false. She further concluded that a mere claim that someone got fired is not enough to question their professional integrity, so long as it wasn’t for misconduct or the quality of their work.

Jaffe called Trump’s remarks “intemperate,” saying they were intended to belittle Jacobus and that no reasonable person would interpret the statements to reflect poorly on Jacobus.

Basically, Jaffe said Trump was bullying Jacobus and that, as with all bullies, his allegedly defamatory comments said more about him than they did about Jacobus.

Jaffe also said she believed her ruling upheld the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which she says protects low-level debate, such as the schoolyard tactics Trump uses as a way of deflecting criticism and avoiding serious political debate.

Our Chicago libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases including cases representing a high profile athlete against a well known radio shock jock, a consumer sued by a large car dealer in federal court for negative internet reviews and videos, one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired, a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois.

Our Chicago defamation attorneys┬ádefend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Rockford and Orland Park who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and off line media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.

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If you are the victim of a defamatory attack on your business or a consumer who has been sued to stop you from posting criticism of a business on line at Yelp or anywhere else, contact one of our Oak Brook and Chicago defamation lawyers for a free consultation at (877) 990-4990 or online by filling out our contact us form.