CNN guest commentator Hilary Rosen has long been something of a live wire on television as when she attacked the wife of Mitt Romney — comments that David Axelrod called “offensive” and President Obama apologized for during the campaign. She has been criticized for her sometimes no-holds-barred approach to advocacy for Democrats. We had such an exchange on NPR where she was quick to take offense as a lesbian to a discussion on Hillary Clinton’s record. She is again in the midst of a controversy and could well be sued for defamation (though I think such a lawsuit would be unwarranted). Rosen (who is Jewish) went on social media to condemn Georgetown student Michael Bakan as an anti-Semitic after he appears in a bacon outfit in this picture. She appears to have missed the fact that his name resembles (and is pronounced) “Bacon.”
Bakan, a Junior, posted the picture in his signature bacon suit during his school’s recent basketball game against Syracuse University.
Rosen went ballistic and posted a tweet declaring “Look at the guy in the ‘bacon suit.’ This is a Georgetown #Hoyas fans anti-Semitic smear to the Syracuse team.” She then posted a second tweet piling on with “Hey bacon-man. #Syracuse for the win. Bigots lose. Bye #Hoyas #Cuse.”
Bakan and others responded. Bakan in a tweet for Rosen. said “Hey, it’s ‘bacon man.’ It’s actually Mr. Bakan — pronounced ‘bacon.’ Just a fun costume.”
Rosen apologized for having “bad info” and took down the tweet. It was an embarrassing moment but not a unique one for the hair-triggered twitter environment. Notably, Rosen has been critical of Trump’s incautious use of Twitter.
The question is whether this tweet could be enough for defamation. It is clearly damaging to Bakan’s reputation. However, Rosen did the right thing in apologizing and taking down the tweet. Moreover, she was giving her opinion on the outfit, as ill-informed and incautious as it might have been. It would seem a poor foundation for a libel action despite calls for Rosen to be held accountable for the tweet.
Just for the record, this woman is also making a pun rather than an anti-Semitic statement.