Black Lives Matter activist, Deray Mckesson, filed a defamation lawsuit against Jeanine Pirro yesterday. The lawsuit stems from statements Pirro made on “Fox & Friends” in September.
Mckesson argues that Pirro’s statement damaged his reputation. His life is also in danger.
The complaint begs the question though, how much damage did Pirro’s statements do to Mckesson? The Fox News audience is critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. While the “Fox & Friends” audience may be the biggest in morning television, it’s not exactly known for being sympathetic to the Mckesson’s cause.
— deray (@deray) September 29, 2017
Mckesson must prove Pirro made the statement with actual malice.
The Supreme Court requires public figures to jump over a higher bar than the average citizen to succeed in a defamation lawsuit. Because Deray Mckesson is a public figure, he has to jump over the higher bar.
Public figures must prove that defendants made the offensive statements with “actual malice.” This means that the speaker knew the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard to the statement’s truth or falsity. That’s a mouth full.
The court looks to the defendant’s state of mind at the time of publication to determine if actual malice existed. It isn’t enough for Mckesson to show that “Fox & Friends” isn’t friendly to the Black Lives Matter movement. It isn’t enough to show that the prosecutor dropped the charges against Mckesson.
Deray Mckesson must prove that Pirro, and Fox News, knew the statements were false. If he can’t do that, he must prove that Pirro, and Fox News, entertained serious doubts about the truthfulness of the comments.
The irony of it all.
The anonymous officer’s lawsuit at the center of these facts didn’t give evidence to prove that Mckesson directed the action that led to the injury. This mistake led to the case’s dismissal.
Deray Mckesson’s complaint also fails to offer necessary evidence. Mckesson’s complaint merely says Pirro acted maliciously. It doesn’t tell us how.
Would you let the government put you in jail without giving evidence or some other proof of wrong-doing? No! The same principle applies here.
Mckesson’s lawsuit tries to extract damages (read: money!) without offering any proof at all that Jeanine Pirro knew her statement was false.
He argued on Twitter that the court found him “not guilty.” But this argument is also misleading. The prosecutor dropped the charges against Mckesson before the case went to trial. That doesn’t mean he isn’t guilty! It just means the prosecutor dropped the charges. It offers absolutely zero proof of innocence or guilt.
Now, I’m no psychic. But I’d bet the court dismisses this case. The First Amendment protects Pirro’s right to comment on the issue, and Mckesson can’t prove that she knew her statements were false.