Click here or above to watch the roundtable. Use of video courtesy of the Executive Office of Governor Ron DeSantis.
HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable to discuss the damaging impacts of defamation from the legacy media as it becomes a more prevalent issue in the lives of everyday citizens. The panel included victims of media defamation, legal experts, and a member of the media who has witnessed the defamatory practices of his colleagues. The Governor also called upon the legislature to take action during the upcoming Legislative Session to protect Floridians from the life-altering ramifications that defamation from the media can cause for a person who does not have the means or the platform to defend himself.
“We’ve seen over the last generation legacy media outlets increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate recourses to fight back. In Florida, we want to stand up for the little guy against these massive media conglomerates.”
Current law does not provide adequate protection for everyday Floridians to protect themselves from defamatory or libelous speech by news organizations.
Nick Sandmann is a former Covington Catholic High School Student from Kentucky. When Sandmann was 16, he participated in the March for Life where he and his friends were harassed, leading to a confrontation that went viral and caused media outlets to publicly criticize him based on his appearance and without understanding the full context of the clip. Watch this video for more information.
“In my case, I didn’t have any reputation to ruin. I didn’t have any kind of career,” said Nick Sandmann. “I didn’t even get the opportunity of a care to comment. What you got was a rush to judgement where they took a 60-second clip from Twitter. They wanted to be the first one with the story. I would say it was the most difficult period of my life. They predetermined what the rest of my future was going to look like.”
Dennis O’Connor was formerly the Secretary of the Board of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. He and other members of the league were victims of deceptive editing in a gun violence documentary which eventually led to the reporter having to issue a public apology to the group. Watch this video for more information.
“Too many people believed what they actually saw on TV,” said Dennis O’Connor. “Even when the truth came out, we took a lot of hits. There has to be a return to ethics and real journalism.”
Devin “Velvel” Freedman is a founding partner at Freedman, Normand, Friedland, LLP and the attorney representing Zachary Young, a former U.S. government operative who was accused by CNN of selling black market evacuations out of Afghanistan during the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from the country. Watch this video for more information.
“You don’t get to destroy someone’s life, reputation, and then issue a four second apology and it’s over,” said Vel Freedman. “When you work in this field, you might think you’re in an echo chamber, but it’s great to see that folks like Governor DeSantis are paying attention to this real issue.”
Elizabeth “Libby” Locke is a partner at Clare, Locke LLP. She is one of the country’s most sought-after libel lawyers and has represented Fortune 100 companies and high-profile individuals against attacks from national media and other influential publishers.
“Thank you, Governor for putting together this incredible panel. Day in and day out we see how the media does not do the job that the American public and Florida citizens would expect them to do,” said Libby Locke. “Calls for comment that are so vague that it doesn’t give the target of the story an opportunity to meaningfully say what is right or wrong, the use of anonymous sources where you can’t respond to someone you don’t even know who is making the allegations. At every stage in the legal process, from the moment you file your complaint all the way through appeal, the thumb is on the scale in favor of the press.”
Carson Holloway is a Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life, and his research focuses on American constitutionalism. He has been a visiting fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and a Visiting Fellow in American Political Thought at The Heritage Foundation. His scholarly articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Federalist, and National Review.
“The thumb seems to be on the scale for the media in these lawsuits and that’s because of what the Supreme Court did in New York Times v. Sullivan back in 1964. That case changed the standards under which libel cases are heard in modern America,” said Carson Holloway. “If we go back to the Founders, we are reminded that people have a right to their reputation. Reputation is a right as precious as one’s property, one’s life, one’s liberty, so another fundamental purpose of American law is to protect rights. The actual malice standard is an invention of the Supreme Court inconsistent with the way the Founders thought about libel and freedom of speech.”
Michael Moynihan is co-host of the Fifth Column Podcast and a former national correspondent for Vice News with other experiences working at The Daily Beast and Newsweek. He was also a resident fellow of the free-market think tank Timbro in Sweden, where he lived and wrote articles about politics in the country, contributing to Swedish-language publications.
“I think that we have to start by focusing on how screwed up the business model of the media is,” said Michael Moynihan. “When I started in media, the internet was a thing, but it wasn’t what drove the new cycle. In a single newspaper, no one knew what articles did best, they only knew how many papers were sold, but now all of that has changed. Media bias is a lot worse because of the repetitiveness and the narrative — push the narrative and facts be damned.”