By Neville L. Johnson and Douglas L. Johnson
A British newspaper, the Telegraph, recently came under fire for printing a story about the first lady's modeling career before her marriage. The settlement included considerable damages paid for making false statements, and the newspaper has made a full apology.
The crux of the issue comes from the newspaper's information source: a book published by a journalist. The journalist reportedly sought out many original sources and the book's material was reviewed by attorneys for months before publication. Many American newspapers and other outlets have quoted this book as fact – until now.
How can one source be found libelous when another is not?
Libel can only be claimed when a statement is both false and insulting or harmful. A given statement generally will not be treated as false or libelous until the guilty party admits it or the courts rule on it. Until that point, the content in question could be treated as fact with no legal punishment. In this particular scenario, the book's author has not admitted any wrongdoing, whereas the newspaper promptly apologized for false statements.
It is easy to understand why the newspaper reacted this way. Any publication looking to avoid a drawn-out legal battle and significant costs may decide the better course of action is to admit fault and accept the charges and penalties. The newspaper also made a statement that they do not have the money or time to check the facts they used from the book or to find original sources.
In some of these cases, it can all come down to who has the money to fight back, and which entities have the visibility to be worth fighting against.
Knowing when to go after libelous words
As individuals in the entertainment industry find commercial success, they may also see an increase in those looking to make money off destroying their image. Having protections in place to guard your image is essential to keeping your career safe.
If you spot libel or false statements in emails, social media posts, newspapers, magazine, videos or in other places, it is essential to ask yourself or a professional how damaging it may be to your career. The importance of protecting your future and reputation through legal means cannot be overstated.