The ‘Tucker Carlson defense’

It can’t be slander if no reasonable person would believe it.

“ ‘You Literally Can’t Believe the Facts Tucker Carlson Tells You.’ So Say Fox’s Lawyers.”—David Folkenflik, NPR. 9/29/2020

In 2018, former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal sued Fox’s Tucker Carlson for slander because he stated that President Donald Trump was a “victim of extortion” by McDougal in her claim of a sexual affair with Trump. In reality, the affair had occurred and Trump had paid $150,000 in 2016 to shut her up before the presidential election.

But Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil agreed with Carlson’s lawyers: “Whether the Court frames Mr. Carlson’s statements as ‘exaggeration,’ ‘non-literal commentary,’ or simply bloviating for his audience, the conclusion remains the same — the statements are not actionable.”— in other words, Carlson was not guilty of slandering McDougal even if he was lying about her.

Vyskocil’s decision has become what is now called “the Tucker Carlson defense”. The lies that Tucker Carlson asserts on his Fox News show are not slanderous because any “reasonable” person would know that he lies. He is protected under his First Amendment free speech rights.

When a judge redefines slander to make it acceptable to falsely publicly defame someone, it tears at the foundation of our judicial system.

Lies are believed while truth is ignored. Democracy is based upon an educated populous who can discern fact from fantasy. A sizable portion of the U.S. populace is under the spell of deceivers such as Carlson who are relying on their followers’ ignorance to steal their money and use their support to gain power, destroying democracy in the process.

Carlson has no conscience. It has been seared with a hot iron. Unfortunately, his viewers seem incapable or unwilling to face the facts. They cannot be reasoned with. Carlson remains popular while he continues to lie, dividing the nation with a false narrative.

Tucker Carlson recently defended Derek Chauvin, convicted murderer of George Floyd, making Chauvin out to be the real victim, not Floyd. Carlson’s argument is that the jury feared for its own safety from an angry mob of left-wingers if they did not convict Chauvin.

Carlson emphasized that the angry crowd distracted Chauvin while he had his knee on Floyd’s neck. He emphasized the drugs in Floyd’s body, blaming them for Floyd’s death, rather than a lack of air. Carlson ignored the video and the testimony from the coroner, choosing instead to create another narrative that played into the fears and prejudices of his viewers.

Carlson’s approach challenges our judicial system and breaks down respect and trust in a jury making objective decisions. If it is not curbed, his successful defense will be used by others to avoid being held accountable for their words and actions. The infection must be stopped before it becomes an epidemic.

One recent example to show its spread is exemplified by Sidney Powell, the right-wing attorney, who once represented Donald Trump in claiming that the 2020 election was stolen by the Democrats through fraud. She is using the Tucker Carlson defense in her own $1.3 billion lawsuit brought against her by the Dominion Voting System because, “reasonable people would not accept such statements as true.”

Unfortunately, according to “The Washington Post” (Aaron Blake 3/23/2021), three-quarters of Republicans believe Trump’s claims of voter fraud. The State of Georgia just passed new voting regulations based upon those unproven claims.

Federal judges are put into their positions of power because they are viewed as being responsible; because they understand the tension between what’s good for the individual and what’s good for society as a whole. Unfortunately, this Trump nominee and Republican Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Vyskolic’s decision matters in a nation divided nearly in half by political divisions. Her ruling is reaping a political and judicial whirlwind.

Perhaps, someday, Judge Vyskolic herself will find that she may be taking the Tucker Carlson defense by a higher court decision slapping down her irresponsible ruling. That would be poetic justice.