Political defamation is all the rage this year. Last week alone, two politically related libel lawsuits made news. The first, a scandalous case out of France involving the country’s unmarried first lady and president; the second, a defamation battle over aggressive campaign ads in Oklahoma.
Affair Accusations Lead To Political Defamation Lawsuit
Right or wrong, we typically think of the French as, shall we say, very open-minded when it comes to matters of infidelity. The myth of the “French mistress” has been a spoke of cultural lore for centuries. But politics are politics everywhere – and folks never seem to look kindly on elected officials who cheat on their significant others, even in open-minded France.
The stigma attached to infidelity is probably the reason why Valérie Trierweiler, the domestic partner of France’s current president, Francois Hollande, is suing two authors, Alix Bouilhaguet and Christophe Jakubyszyn, for defamation. The pair wrote a book called “La Frondeuse” (The Troublemaker”), which characterizes Trierweiler as a “narcissistic woman, using at once her charms to get what she wants and in the following second, showing her fangs when something displeases her.”
Now, if the literary duo stopped there, things may have blown over. But they also accused Trierweiler of cheating on Francois Hollande with notable French politician, Patrick Devedjian. Alix and Christophe also claim that notorious charmer, Nicolas Sarkozy, once made a pass at Victoria, which she blatantly rebuffed.
Trierweiler has been the subject of much media scrutiny over the past year. But “The Troublemaker” seems to have pushed her to legal remedies.
Campaign Ads Lead To Political Defamation Lawsuit In Missouri
Back on this side of the pond, another political defamation lawsuit was filed by Dave Spence, a Missouri gubernatorial candidate who is running against Jay Nixon, the incumbent governor. The tussle is over some campaign ads and accusations that Spence improperly took advantage of his position as a bank executive.
Filed in Cole County Circuit Court, the suit avers that Spence (a) did not use federal bailout money to buy himself a vacation home and (b) did not make bad investments that ran his bank “into the ground.” Since the defendant, in a campaign spot, said Spence did use federal money and mismanage investments, the plaintiff is charging defamation.
Both parties are hitting the media hard with aggressive sound bites about the situation. Oren Shur, Nixon’s campaign manager, opined, “You see a lot of crazy stunts during the course of a campaign, but this frivolous lawsuit is misguided and desperate.” Spence, not to be outdone in the “red meat throwing” chided that Nixon has “sold his soul to the devil.”
The Spence v. Nixon defamation lawsuit is not the first between two politicians in this election cycle. And it’s somewhat surprising, because since the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan ruling in the 1960s, it’s been very difficult for politicians to win a defamation lawsuit — due to the establishment of the “actual malice” standard. Now, if Spence can unequivocally prove that he did not misuse the bailout money or make any bad investments, in addition to refuting any evidence to the contrary, then he may be able to eek out a win. Otherwise, this may just be posturing on his part – which, let’s face it, is part of the political game, on both sides of the isle.