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The Greater the Truth the Greater the Libel


A recent case in libel reminded me of the proverb: the greater the truth, the greater the libel

(This proverb/quote has been attributed to Lord Mansfield and others, but also has roots in the doctrines of calumny and detraction, where, in lay terms, it’s worse to say something bad about a person if the thing is true than if it’s untrue, because you can’t retract it without telling a lie. Go ahead and have Google run a search on the words calumny detraction to see more or if you are interested in scholarly research on the subject, visit a law or theological library.)

From Media Law blog: “Think You Know Libel Law? Think Again:

A bedrock principle of libel law is that truth is an absolute defense. If what you say about someone is true, the person cannot win a libel case against you, even if you defame them. The federal appeals court in Boston put a jackhammer to the bedrock this week. In Noonan v. Staples, it ruled that even a true statement can be subject to a libel lawsuit if it was said with actual malice. In so deciding, the three-judge panel did an about face, reversing its own earlier decision in the same case. You need not be superstitious to appreciate the import of this Friday the 13th ruling. It is the most dangerous libel decision in decades. The decision puts a crack in the bedrock that threatens to undermine free speech….” (read full post)

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