The Constitution’s framers never intended to give journalists the right to libel public figures, and the Supreme Court really screwed up when it did so, according to Justice Antonin Scalia.”One of the evolutionary provisions that I abhor is New York Times v. Sullivan,” Scalia said in an interview last week with Charlie Rose.
The case, which was decided in March 1964, essentially held journalists could libel a public figure as long they don’t do so with “reckless” disregard for the truth.
The Supreme Court ruled that kind of libel was allowable under the Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech.
And while Scalia acknowledged that might be a good system for public discourse, he said the Supreme Court had no business adding that new interpretation to the First Amendment.
If the people really wanted such a loophole, the states should have voted separately.
“For the Supreme Court to say that the Constitution requires [that ruling], that’s not what the people understood when they ratified the First Amendment,” Scalia said.
At the time it was adopted, nobody thought that the First Amendment would encompass the ability to libel somebody, according to Scalia.
“Who told Earl Warren and the Supreme Court that what had been accepted libel law for a couple hundred years was no longer?” he asked.
We can’t embed the full interview but you can listen to Scalia’s tirade against the 1964 decision starting around the 28-minute mark.
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