Skip to comments.The Final Word on CBS and “The Reagans”
Posted on 11/13/2003 12:35:45 PM PST by jmstein7
The Supreme Court has explicitly held that, [There is] no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Further, false statements belong to that category of utterances which are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
False statements, i.e. the core of defamation, are not protected by the First Amendment.
There is no question that The Reagans is a defamatory piece. The script is out there for all to see; the CBS mini-series is full of defamatory material. The screenwriter, Elizabeth Egloff, admits that most of the script is made-up, a work of pure fiction although CBS did not advertise the series as fiction or fantasy. In fact, a reasonable view would assume that CBS was reporting historical events. CBS knew that the words Ms. Egloff put in Mr. Reagans mouth are mostly fabricated and false. CBS would not have been protected by the First Amendment.
Hit pieces like The Reagans have no value, and they are not considered speech that is protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court held in Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Therefore, there is no argument that The Reagans is an expression protected by the first Amendment. In fact, it is defamation and therefore unlawful under California Civil Code sections 44 and 45a.
The argument that speech is being chilled by CBS pulling the series is equally absurd. In Grayned v. City of Rockford, the Supreme Court held that there is no impermissible chilling of speech if the law gives those of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what [conduct] is prohibited. Here it is very clear what the law prohibits defamation. Im sure that Les Moonves, and other decision makers at CBS, understand that the law prohibits defamation. Therefore, since there is no confusion over what exactly the law prohibits it is very clear there is no impermissible chilling effect on speech. Thus, the argument that pulling The Reagans chills speech is utter nonsense.
The Reagans defames both Ronald and Nancy Reagan by falsely misrepresenting their words and conduct. Under in California, and every other state, defamation is unlawful. Defamation is not speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Further, as people of ordinary intelligence understand that defamation is unlawful and unprotected, proscribing or disavowing defamatory material does not and can not chill speech. Therefore, The Reagans is not speech that is protected by the First Amendment, and canceling that series does not create an impermissible chilling effect.
There simply is no valid argument to the contrary. Of course, we know what the left-wingers are really upset about they have been denied the opportunity to smear Ronald Reagan on national television.
Writers are notoriously lazy and television writers are the laziest of all. This is especially true when it comes to doing research. I half wonder if this particular writer fantasized a Reagan hit piece less out of ideology and more because she was too lazy to do real research.
"What shall I do today? Stay home, or go to the library and check out some books on Reagan so that my script will be accurate? Well, if I go to the library, I won't be able to snort cocaine . . . . "
CBS will not broadcast THE REAGANS
on November 16 and 18. This decision
is based solely on our reaction to
seeing the final film, not the controversy
that erupted around a draft of the script.
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