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. It appears that you are using your administrator privileges as a thread, sword and hammer.

  2. Gene,

    There is nothing that is waiting moderation that is a veiled threat….. Now is there…..

  3. AY,

    Your veiled threats to other posters are still under review. If you have a problem with that, you know who to contact and how.

  4. Are we going to take them out of moderation today? Are is this what FFLEO warned us about? Censorship……..

  5. Hmm…. Comments still waiting moderation…… No links….. So that’s not the problem….they are truthful…. They don’t reveal personal information….. Hmmmm…… I wonder…. They are being censored….. That’s okay… They are saved…. We will see if they disappear….and if they do…. I have back ups…..

  6. Well Bob,

    You are more than welcome to use that…… Deal? I won’t post under Not Bob Kauten…..

  7. Bob,

    Perhaps you would like to tell me which posting name you would like me to use.

  8. Joe Esterhas and son – Shameful of you!!! Despite Mel’s behavior, what the two of you did is certainly not a Catholic/Christian act. My opinion of you, Joe, just went BACK into the toilet. Have you REALLY “seen the light?” Or are you a hypocrite? Shall we call you Joe…or Judas? You are a big disappointment…

  9. So Gene,

    If you don’t have a problem with folks posting under similar names….. Then what if someone started posting under Not Gene H, or Gene H2 or Gene H3…… would you have a problem…..

    1. I’m just curious. Is this never-ending discussion of who’s-using-what-name going to be confined to this thread?

      Or will the rest of Professor Turley’s postings be contaminated, as well?

      My real name is Bob Kauten. You could consider just using your actual name, and take whatever lumps come from that.

      Too simple?

      1. Bob,
        It does get old. Arguments of substance are fine, but this thread has been sidetracked over very little of substance and much silly bickering. And these remarks are directed at more than one. Please enough already.

  10. Well Gene,

    There no anonymous posts this fine day….. So why aren’t they waiting in moderation…..

  11. AY,

    I’m not deleting them. I’m keeping them for discussion purposes. Just like I’ve kept a lot of other pertinent information from other posters and elsewhere. This is the Professor’s blog and he’s the one who created the anonymous posting policy which all of the guest bloggers studiously uphold. No one’s public identity is revealed here if they wish to post anonymously and we don’t let others out posters either should they have reason to know an anonymous person’s true identity. In your case though, complaints have already been made in that regard and a record of those complaints kept. You may think you want to butt heads with me on this issue, but I can assure you that you really don’t.

    How you take that bit of advice is up to you.

  12. Bob,

    Good commentary. The fox terrier analogy was meant to be humorous. The little guys are fierce, but they aren’t mean. They’re also very protective.

  13. So Gene,

    Threats or promises….. I don’t really care….I wonder how the professor is taking you deleting posts that you disagree with? Yes, you have the power to do it at this time…..I thought you’ve said that it’s the professors blog….. Now, I know it’s not…m

  14. Do it again. I’ll be glad to have a discussion about people using sockpuppets in a threatening manner concerning other posters private information.

  15. Gene,

    I am not surprised…… You deleted the post….. If verifiable truth is an issue on this site then maybe it should be renamed jonathanturleyredacted.Org…….

    I recounted the emails that you sent to the professor and his response. They total three. If my email outbox is correct, I sent one at your request. If you recall, there were numerous folks that did not want you as a guest Blogger because you’d have access to private personal information…… If I recall, FFLEO was one of them…… I think he quit coming here because of his disagreement with your censorship of a guy by the name of martin this last summer….

    There is nothing revealed here that cannot be proved…..please look at your post as a guest writer……

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