Joy Reid’s lies, spread to her 1.5 million social media followers, may cost her some money and could change what content the media publishes. Reid, an MSNBC host, is in legal trouble for defaming a Trump supporter online. At the center of this affair is a photo used in a false context to demonize Roslyn La Liberte, the aforementioned Trump supporter.
Liberte was attending a public meeting on immigration law. While there, she spoke with the young person in the picture about American laws. They agreed on some things and disagreed on others. But the way Liberte’s face was captured in a photo could be used to stoke anti-Trump hate – and so it was. Reid alleged Liberte verbally accosted and threatened the young teenager, which was the opposite of what transpired; Liberte was cordial and respectful during the exchange. Now Ms. Reid, who has been given Chris Matthew’s primetime spot on MSNBC despite horrific anti-trans and homophobic remarks, may have to pay up for her slander.
On June 29, 2018, Ms. Reid retweeted the photo in question, posted the previous day by a teenage activist named Alan Vargas with the caption:
“’You are going to be the first deported” [and] “dirty Mexican” [w]ere some of the things they yelled they yelled [sic] at this 14 year old boy. He was defending immigrants at a rally and was shouted down. Spread this far and wide this woman needs to be put on blast.”
To be clear, those words were Mr. Vargas’, republished by Ms. Reid. At the time Reid retweeted the message, it had not received much attention. After she used her megaphone to rebroadcast Mr. Vargas’s tweet to her 1.24 million followers, however, it went viral.
As the complaint says, “Instead of a politically biased seventeen-year-old social media activist whose posts reveal his obvious bias, the June 29 Twitter Post came from a nationally recognized journalist.” And, “Objective readers interpreted Reid’s retweet as accusing La Liberte of being one of those who screamed racial obscenities at a minor during the City Council Meeting.”
Do It For The ‘Gram
If that were all Reid did, it would still have exposed La Liberte to an unearned tidal wave of hate and scorn, but the television host was not done. She made it much worse. Reid has “only” 100k Instagram followers and she didn’t’ send out the same message to them. Instead, she made her own, adopting the facts – as Vargas presented them – as her own.
“It was inevitable that this image would be made. It’s also easy to look at old black and white photos and think: I can’t believe that person screaming at a child, with their face twisted in rage, is real. B[ut] every one of them were. History sometimes repeats. And it is full of rage. Hat tip to @joseiswriting. #regram #history #chooselove.”
That none of this was accurate has become a problem for Reid. The young man in the photo stated publicly that he “felt like [La Liberte] was still trying to keep it civil, which I appreciate,” and “she was being civil.” La Liberte became a target of opportunity for anyone ready to unleash on her, because of her alleged threats against the teen. She lost count of the death threats delivered in myriad ways, and her image was cast across the internet as the face of bigotry.
Second Circuit Overturns
When La Liberte sued for defamation, Reid fought and won in the lower courts, and soundly. The judge ruled that La Liberte was to be considered a public figure in this instance, making victory on a defamation case almost impossible. And also, that California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“anti-SLAPP”) law applied – ordering La Liberte to pay Reid’s attorney’s fees.
To say the appellate court reversed that ruling is an understatement. This week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that La Liberte is not a public figure for slander analysis purposes because she doesn’t have regular ongoing media access. They also ruled that the anti-SLAPP law may not be applied in federal court because it violates due process rules.
Reid’s great hand turned into a busted flush, and now the case will return to the lower court. The defendant will have a tough road ahead to avoid liability for her speech.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.