Joy Reid Loses To La Liberte: MSNBC Host Creates New Precedent Binding Media

MSNBC’s Joy Reid has two notable developments this week. She was named as the new nightly anchor to replace Chris Matthews and was lost a major appeal in a defamation lawsuit tied to her prior position.  Reid has a history of controversial statement including her insistence that her posts on her blog with homophobic comments were fabricated by hackers.  She later apologized for the postings that she claimed that she made. She acknowledged “I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me.”  She was sued in one of the most notorious postings on social media by Roslyn La Liberte, a Trump supporter, who was trashed by Reid for comments that she never made and an account that proved to be untrue.  Reid relied on California’s Anti-Slapp statute and immunity arguments to try to force La Liberte out of court, even though she again later apologized. Now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has handed down a major ruling against Reid that could undermine future defenses by media figures.

Reid retweeted this image of La Liberte in the MAGA hat from a city council meeting in California during debate over SB 54, a law limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.  Reid first retweeted the image with the  caption, “You are going to be the first deported.” Then, in a second post on Instagram, she wrote that the woman in the photo had screamed “You are going to be the first deported … dirty Mexican!” In additional postings on Instagram and Facebook, Reid said “Make the picture black and white and it could be the 1950s and the desegregation of a school. Hate is real, y’all. It hasn’t even really gone away.”

The problem is that the image was false as was the account.  La Liberte is the daughter of immigrants and was described as trying to calm the situation down.  The 14-year-old at the center of the controversy was shown hugging La Liberte after their exchange. As stated in a federal complaint,  the misleading caption and posting to Reid’s1.24 million followers was a classic defamation action.  The complaint states:

“An interview of the young man confirming that La Liberte did not utter any racial slurs and was otherwise civil to him. He states, among other things, that he “felt like [La Liberte] was still trying to keep it civil which I appreciate”; “she was being civil”; and “[s]he doesn’t deserve it because she was giving her opinion at a place where everyone should be able to say their peace.”

Two days after posting her comments, Reid apologized by saying “It appears I got this wrong. My apologies to Mrs. La Liberte and Joseph.”  The failure to specify what she “got wrong” and the use of “appears” led La Liberte to object that the apology was too little and too late.

Reid’s counsel then however successfully used the California law against La Liberte when she sought a defamation action.  La Liberte was first declared a limited public figure for the purposes of the defamation.  We have previously discussed this status. The status imposes the higher standard first imposed in New York Times v. Sullivan for public officials, requiring a showing of “actual malice” where media had actual knowledge of the falsity of a statement or showed reckless disregard whether it was true or false.

This status determination turns on Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 352 (1974) and its progeny of cases.  The Supreme Court has held that public figure status applies when  someone “thrust[s] himself into the vortex of [the] public issue [and] engage[s] the public’s attention in an attempt to influence its outcome.” A limited-purpose public figure status applies if someone voluntarily “draw[s] attention to himself” or allows himself to become part of a controversy “as a fulcrum to create public discussion.” Wolston v. Reader’s Digest Association, 443 U.S. 157, 168 (1979).

This case shows how easy it is to fall under the higher standard.  Just because she appears in the meeting, the district court found that La Liberte had become a limited public figure.  The Second Circuit disagreed and stated “Thin as the findings are to begin with, the district court did not take into account the requirement that a limited purpose public figure maintain ‘regular and continuing access to the media.'”

It also rejected the use of the California anti-Slapp statute to shift attorney fees to the winner under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.  The Second Circuit ruled that the state anti-SLAPP law was inapplicable in federal court which follows countervailing standards on the necessary showing for cases.  Under federal rules, a plaintiffs must show only a plausibility — not the probability — of prevailing. It also ruled that Reid does not enjoy immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Each of these holding would be a considerable loss but their combination in one case is a devastating loss for media defendants.

Here is the Second Circuit opinion.


83 thoughts on “Joy Reid Loses To La Liberte: MSNBC Host Creates New Precedent Binding Media”

  1. mespo727272 — Nothing wrong with my browser, but the incompetence of the site control program. But then such technical arcania is beyond you.

    1. David,
      FWIW, I’ve found that the frequency of this problem does vary with the browser I’m using. I normally use Firefox for MacOS, and I experience the problem intermittently with that browser on this site (but haven’t had this problem on other WordPress sites, much less sites using better commenting applications, like Disqus). For this site, I decided to try using Safari instead, and I haven’t been encountering this problem. I don’t want to switch to Safari as my primary browser, but it’s not a problem to keep both browsers open and use Safari for this site. If you’re not using MacOS, it might still be worth trying another browser, not as your primary browser, but for this site.

    2. Benson:

      “But then such technical arcania is beyond you.”
      Yeah alls I cans do is put the comment after the one I want it to follow. It’s never the Indian causing the poor bow shot, its always the arrow! LOL

      1. this old fool cant work his phone so he uses “technical arcania” as fancy jargon to cover his own incompetence.

  2. There is a legal adage which says “hard cases make bad law” meaning that what happened to a particular plaintiff in a case was so outrageous that the law is changed to provide a remedy which ends up not working in regular cases. Here, a hard case– what Joy Reid did to La Liberte– was so outrageous it may result in good law. We may finally see some of the bricks taken out of the wall of defenses that have blocked so many defamed plaintiffs from any legal remedy.

    1. Agreed! I appreciate getting this important update on the law of defamation! I’m looking forward to reading the case. Perhaps this precedent will have an in terrorem effect on some of these media personalities who are reckless in their treatment of others. Thanks to Professor Turley for bringing the case to our attention!

  3. mespo727272 — As I have previously written, several times, I post a reply but the computer program always places the result at the top of the comments. Not my doing, but poor program design on someone’s part.

    Incidentally, there are at least two castings of Rodin’s “The Thinker” in Paris. I have seen both.

  4. Ironic that Gertz’s wikipedia bio shows that he published a book in 1945 called The Diary of a Public Man.

  5. Reid is as dumb as dirt. But so is Matthews. So I guess this was a lateral move by MSNBC.

    She is also a bigot who loathes Caucasians, because she’s not one.

    But she is always overly emotional, and as a result she’s an extremely unintelligent blunder machine. So it’s no surprise that it has caught up with her.

    1. Rhodes:
      Matthews was a guy torn between job liberalism and personal centrism. Glad he quit. He needed out and I’m betting he’ll emerge more conservative.

    2. I do believe that you have defined the majority of leftist blacks in your apt definition of Reid. Good job!

    3. Remember Chris Mathews during Obama’s first campaign? Something like, “He gives me a shiver up my leg.”

    1. Book, check out the thread right before this. Estovir is going totally nuts!!! He’s also using your name.

      1. Saw it Seth, it wasn’t me, so thanks for pointing it out, but I don’t GAF what these junior high morons do. It’s Thursday so they’re probably wearing green.

        1. BTB– “It’s Thursday so they’re probably wearing green.”

          My Lord, if that means what it used to mean (the person is gay), I haven’t heard that slur since I was in high school. I’m not saying that as a put-down but to suggest that either it is still current which would be amazing or you and I must be about the same age.

        2. BTB, you’re replying to a junior high moron, named Seth.

          The fact that you failed to discern that doesn’t speak well of your intellect.

  6. BTW:

    Why haven’t MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS,NBC, PBS/NPR, Wapo, NYT,LAT & a few others been forced already to register as Foreign Agents???

  7. Joy Reid:

    “adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types.”

    “Does that make me homophobic? Probably.”

    ““When a friend found [the posts] in December and sent them to me, I was stunned. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine where they’d come from or whose voice that was. In the months since, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of these posts. I hired cybersecurity experts to see if somebody had manipulated my words or my former blog. And the reality is they have not been able to prove it.”

    This is MSNBC’s new nightly anchor. How perfect. That she pulled a Jussie Smollett move is hilarious.

  8. Again, the federal courts manufactured this ‘public figure’ hooey. Strip them of jurisdiction.

    1. (3) If the court determines that the plaintiff has established a probability that he or she will prevail on the claim, neither that determination nor the fact of that determination shall be admissible in evidence at any later stage of the case, or in any subsequent action, and no burden of proof or degree of proof otherwise applicable shall be affected by that determination in any later stage of the case or in any subsequent proceeding.

      Yes, CA uses probability

      Federal uses plausibility

  9. When you have TDS you need to get professional help to cope or you’ll do amazingly stupid stuff like Joy. The media is going to hate Joy for setting appellate precedents against them.

    1. clarksbackup says:
      July 16, 2020 at 7:50 AM

      When you have TDS you need to get professional help to cope or you’ll do amazingly stupid stuff like Joy.”

      When we see this fair amount of America hating commie/fascist with TDS as we do now, the only obvious way to help them is to get yourself & everybody’s brothers/sister to go vote Trump in for a 2nd term Just to help those with TDS confront their inner demons.

      Sounds like fun to me. 😉

  10. Just deepens the circuit split. SCOTUS should resolve the question once and for all. Or perhaps even better, a special motion to strike should be enacted to the FRCP.

  11. “Each of these holding would be a considerable loss but their combination in one case is a devastating loss for media defendants.”

    I’m taking this to be a good thing, right, holding the media accountable?

    As a partial aside, I would be satisfied if they deported Ms Reid to the Marxist paradise of her choice.

  12. A small preview of the integrity that we can expect from Me. Reid as anchor.

    She seems to be an unpleasant person.

  13. Allow me to ask a question that I have asked before but never got an answer to. Sullivan requires actual malice or that a person knew what he or she was saying was not true when they made a statement.

    Clapper, Brennan and others testified under oath that they had no evidence of collusion. Adam Schiff heard that testimony. All three of them went on national television multiple times and said the exact opposite of the testimony.

    So either Clapper and Brennan are guilty of lying to Congress or all three of them are guilty of saying something they knew to be false when they appeared on national TV.

    Yes? No?

    1. Are you asking if what they said under oath contradicting what they said on TV when not under oath can be criminally prosecuted? Or make them civilly liable for defaming Trump?

    2. No. You’re presenting a false dichotomy, as those aren’t the only two possibilities. For example, some of the testimony remains redacted, so you don’t know the full content of their testimony before Congress, and you’d also need to look at the dates of the statements, since people learn things over time.

    3. Mofo– People who appear in government forums like courtrooms, state or federal committee hearings, etc., generally have immunity from liability for defamation. The TV appearances are a different matter and defamation laws generally would apply.

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