Libel is defined in various dictionaries as ‘a published statement that is false and damaging to a person’s reputation’ or ‘written misrepresentation that is slander or defamation (defamation = damaging someone’s good reputation).’
The current president ought to know exactly what libel is, and he ought to have learned some lessons from his many court appearances. In 1973, his family business was sued for racial discrimination that violated the Fair Housing Act, then just five years old. In the ensuing years he has sued many times, been named in over fifty lawsuits (many more than his predecessors in the White House) just since January 20 of this year, and been involved in thousands of lawsuits in his business dealings over the last thirty years. Examples include making threats to sue at least forty-three times, targeting the press and the Justice Department among others. He has lost or settled more libel suits than he has won, presumably since he charges people with speaking ill of him for simply speaking the truth. He considers his own inflammatory language against others acceptable. This man has never had to face consequences. He seems to think that if he says something, it becomes true – no matter how absurd it is. For instance, his response to a contract breach suit included the following logic: “‘Well, the word ‘developing,’ it doesn’t mean that we’re the developers,’ [he] said, arguing he’s not accountable when a project he lends just his name to goes under.“
His current wife has sued the press for libel, claiming that they damaged her reputation to such an extent that she would no longer be able to parlay her time as first lady into the same number of dollars as she could have, if only they had not sullied her image so.
The current president has been sued for more than words. His deeds, too, have led many injured parties to seek restitution in courts. From his press interactions to his family businesses, this man sues and is sued on an alarmingly regular basis. More so than most public figures, which is not reassuring in a head of state and our commander in chief. From his early days, he has demonstrated that he chooses not to improve his behavior or begin abiding by our nation’s laws following any of these skirmishes with the law. Rather than change his own actions, he accuses others of bad behavior.
Fast forward to the present, and we see this man who has such a fraught relationship with both truth and integrity writing on twitter (publishing) another lie (misrepresentation) in which he accuses (slanders) the former president of doing something illegal (damaging a reputation), without a shred of evidence (false).
It certainly appears that the current president could now be sued for libel by the previous president. We do not really think Obama will stoop to bringing suit. We do hope the current president’s lawyers and advisors remind him that a President of the United States of America ought to be so very much more careful and measured with his public comments. Without evidence to nurture this hope, we still pray that someone, anyone, can talk this man into speaking and acting at the very least like a grown-up. Our national discourse, our national dignity, and our national security depend on it.
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