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Hustler Magazine v. Falwell

From lawbrain.com

Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 US 46 (1988), was a highly publicized torts case that looks at libel, invasion or privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress as it relates to public figures.

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Contents

Summary of Case Facts

Hustler Magazine ran a parody showcasing Falwell as having a drunken incestuous relationship with his mother in an outhouse. The cartoon infuriated the fundamentalist minister and political activist and he sued the magazine for damages stemming from charges of libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Issue

Does the First Amendment freedom of speech protection cover public figures as it relates to offensive statements and emotional distress?

Holding and Law

Only if there is actual malice involved. Although Falwell won at the trial level and was awarded sizeable damages, the decision was ultimately reversed. In order to recover for emotional distress as a public figure, one must show a publicized false statement of fact that was printed with actual malice. Applied here, the court reasoned that a reader would not actually believe the cartoon was stating facts about Falwell and his mother.

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