Mel Gibson Threatens Defamation Lawsuit Against Joe Eszterhas

The release of a tape taken of Mel Gibson in Costa Rica by the son of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has prompted a threat of a defamation lawsuit by the actor. Not only did Eszterhas release the tape secretly made by his son during an argument with Gibson, he accused Gibson of not wanting to proceed with the film “The Maccabees” because he hates Jews.


The tirade by Gibson was taped on an iPhone by Eszterhas ‘ 15-year-old son Nick. On the tape, Gibson, 52, is upset that Eszterhas has not moved more quickly on the script for the movie, which tells the story Jewish heroes: “Why don’t I have a first draft of ‘The Maccabees’? What the f**k have you been doing?” Gibson then goes further in attacking Oksana Grigorieva, his ex-girlfriend and mother of his young daughter: “I am earning money for a filthy little c**ksucker who takes advantage of me!”

On its face, it is a bit untoward for a guest to record a host secretly in their home. However, Eszterhas insisted that he released the tape because “Gibson called me a liar. And I also have some reason to believe he’s creating a PR blitz questioning my truthfulness.” While Eszterhas had agreed to do the film with Gibson, he denounced Gibson for “hating Jews” and using “The Maccabees” film project “to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career.” He publicly stated in a letter that “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.”

A privacy and defamation action would face challenges. Gibson’s claim of an expectation of privacy or that his comments were a protected private fact are undermined by his making the comments to third parties. There was not presumably agreement that such comments would be kept private by the guests.

On defamation, Gibson would collide with the public figure standard requiring a higher level of proof from celebrity to established defamation. The public figure standard was established in Curtis Publishing v. Butts (1967). The case involved a March 23, 1963 edition of The Saturday Evening Post alleging that former University of Georgia football coach Wallace Butts conspired with University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to fix a 1962 football game in Alabama’s favor. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Warren wrote a concurrence that extended the ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan on public officials to public figures. He found the same reasons for applying the higher standard to public officials as present in cases involving public figures:

[I]t is plain that, although they are not subject to the restraints of the political process, “public figures,” like “public officials,” often play an influential role in ordering society. And surely, as a class, these “public figures” have as ready access as “public officials” to mass media of communication, both to influence policy and to counter criticism of their views and activities. Our citizenry has a legitimate and substantial interest in the conduct of such persons, and freedom of the press to engage in uninhibited debate about their involvement in public issues and events is as crucial as it is in the case of “public officials.” The fact that they are not amenable to the restraints of the political process only underscores the legitimate and substantial nature of the interest, since it means that public opinion may be the only instrument by which society can attempt to influence their conduct.

Gibson would need to show actual malice or a reckless disregard of the truth. He would also face truth as a defense with a likely successful effort to admit his prior anti-semitic ravings.

There is the possibility that the taping violated Costa Rican law, but that would involve pursuing a young boy for a criminal charge — not exactly good optics.

For these reasons, this is one dispute that may be better handled outside of court.

136 thoughts on “Mel Gibson Threatens Defamation Lawsuit Against Joe Eszterhas

  1. A threat is in the eyes of the threatened. You should know that. You know the policies of this blog concerning poster anonymity. This isn’t the first time you’ve pushed around the borders of its limits. What you need to do is . . . stop it.

    Do you understand what I am saying to you?

  2. So you can bully anyone you want gene? Not like that hasn’t happened before…. I do not think that I have revealed anyone’s personal information…… I stand by that…..

  3. Stand by what you want. The issue is threats to reveal personal information of other posters by intimation, AY. The bullying going on here is being done by you and it has been persistent and long term in one case. This matter is still under review. Again, if you have a problem with that, you know who to contact and how. Feel free to keep commenting in the mean time. Just respect the very few rules there are here. However, you need to consider what I’ve said concerning your past actions in re other posters.

  4. Gene,

    Have you read the history of Russia…… How Stalin came to power and what he did to those after he gained the supremacy over the people of Russia…… It’s an interesting read….

  5. Question for all you long-time listeners and non-frist time callers: Not counting this post, 130 posts on this thread; how does it rank in responses, and what were the three top threads?

  6. junctionshamus,

    Well, I can kind of answer that question and I say kinda because of the way WordPress tracks data (it only keeps stats for the last 1000 comments.).

    The most commented thread of all time/to date is this one: https://jonathanturley.org/2011/07/16/what-makes-a-good-law-what-makes-a-bad-law-2/ with 2,110 comments. To my knowledge it is the only thread to ever break 2,000 comments. I only know about this one because I have reason to know about this one.

    The next two probably fall in the 1800-1500 comments range (I’ve seen quite a few threads in that range) but I can’t give you specific links to a #2 or #3. Our current “number two” (being tracked as number one) is https://jonathanturley.org/2011/10/23/holdings-dicta-and-stare-decisis/ with 1,348. I recall Nal having a post sometime in the very recent past that was somewhere around the 1,800 mark but I’m drawing a blank on the title and subject. The next closest is ranking 819 comments at the moment.

    130 isn’t even a blip on the Top 10 radar, let alone the Top 3. Most threads currently generate less than 300 comments. The majority I would say.

    Beyond that, most “good” threads generate between 300-1000 comments. An “excellent” thread is what I’d call anything with over 1,000 comments. Their have historically been quite a few, but unless you manually stumble across them, there is no way to track them from WordPress.

    I hope that answers your question.

    Your mileage may vary.

  7. @ Gene H – Thank you very much. A pleasant remainder of the weekend to you. As for me, my father-in-law arrives tomorrow. My wife is in good spirits so I won’t get the “stink-eye” (this time)…

  8. You are most welcome and same to you, junctionshamus. May your stink eye be minimal. They say you have to love the in-laws, but unless they are referring to the Peter Falk/Alan Arkin film, I can’t for the life me of think why. :mrgreen: And who are these “they” people anyway? Whoever they are, I hope they don’t interfere with you having a pleasant remainder of your weekend as well.

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