A Dallas-area lawyer claims that comedian Stephen Colbert’s vile rant against President Trump isn’t just offensive – he says it may have been illegal.
Colbert, star of the Late Show, lambasted the President in an opening monologue segment that featured the comic hurling insults he thinks media members would genuinely like to say to Trump, but can’t.
In the segment, Colbert ridiculed Trump for being a disgrace, equated his supporters to skinheads, suggested he was mentally handicapped, and claimed his policies were in line with those of Hitler.
What really drew the ire of viewers was the former Daily Show correspondent’s homophobic slur to close out the piece.
“The only thing [Trump’s] mouth is good for,” Colbert said, “is being Vladimir Putin’s…” We won’t continue the rest.
Now the comedian is facing trouble on two fronts.
First, a social media campaign to #FireColbert started springing up and spreading like wildfire.
Time for him to go. Total trash. I will boycott advertisers. #FireColbert
— hank_1972 (@Hank_1972) May 3, 2017
#firecolbert CBS STAND UP AND DO THE RIGHT THING FIRE COLBERT THIS SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED,IF IT WAS SAID ABOUT OBAMA HE WOULD BE GONE
— MIKEM (@09BRAININJURY) May 2, 2017
— Rep. B.J. Nikkel (@RepBJNikkel) May 3, 2017
Second, and perhaps even worse, a Texas lawyer, Cameron Kinvig, has laid out a case against Colbert that suggests his comments may have been illegal. He claims that Colbert’s comments were “knowingly false,” and exhibited signs of “actual malice,” something past court cases have addressed.
When involving public officials, the Court held that “neither factual error nor defamatory content suffices to remove the constitutional shield from criticism of official conduct,” and that “the combination of the two elements is no less inadequate.”
While the Court gave great latitude to the New York Times, it didn’t give the newspaper a blank check to defame at will. Instead, the Court carved out from First Amendment protection statements “made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that [the statement] was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
There can be no denying that Colbert’s monologue contained knowingly false accusations. Most of his statements—while made from a seeming locus of fact—were both hugely offensive and ludicrous in their factual absurdity. But equally telling from the video itself was Colbert’s admission of “actual malice,” as he stated that he would be happy to “trade insults with the president of the United States to his face.”
It is not difficult to establish actual malice in a defamation context when the speaker admits to the same in front of tens-of-millions of people. Different from the offensive caricature of the Rev. Jerry Falwell depicted in a clearly-noted ad parody upheld by the Court in Hustler v. Falwell (1988), Colbert’s speech was meant to be taken as fact, was knowingly false, and was delivered in a malicious and purposeful manner.
The argument is perhaps specious.
It’d be difficult to prove Colbert’s speech was “meant to be taken as fact,” as Kinvig suggests. Most comedians fall back on their profession and could easily argue that none of their act is to be taken as factual.
Despite any issues – whether it be a social media campaign, advertiser boycott, or legal matter – Colbert seemingly has no regrets about the segment in question.
“I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that,” Colbert said on his show. “I would do it again.”
Kinvig meanwhile, insists “Mr. Colbert went past the protections the First Amendment provides to comedians and other satirists, and should be taken to task for his actions.”
What’s clear here is the incredible double standard for liberals and conservatives. Liberals were apoplectic any time President Obama was criticized, claiming that only a racist could possibly oppose anything Obama did.
Now, liberals defend Colbert’s disgusting anti-gay insults, just because they hate President Trump.
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