Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hinted at the possibility of forwarding legislation that would lower the standards for individuals to successfully sue news outlets for defamation.
During a Tuesday roundtable discussion in Hialeah Gardens, DeSantis was joined by defamation victim Nicholas Sandmann, a former Covington Catholic student, several libel case attorneys, and journalist Michael C. Moynihan.
The Republican governor stressed while speaking to the six panelists that any potential legislation in the future would not be for his own benefit, but for the dozens of private citizens who are victims of inaccurate reporting.
“They come after me — and they do do a lot of slander — but I fight back. I have a platform to fight back. ... I got thick skin,” DeSantis said. “But you have some of these other folks who are just run-of-the-mill citizens. Their only possible way of recourse would be to be able to bring an action” in court.
DeSantis then asked attorney Libby Locke if it has been adjudicated whether citing anonymous sources for an accusation is “an inference of actual malice,” a reference to standards established in the Supreme Court’s New York Times Co. v. Sullivan ruling.
The dialogue with Locke, culminating in DeSantis asking if the Supreme Court might reconsider the precedent altogether, paralleled a bill drafted by the governor’s office before last year’s legislative session.
DeSantis’ never-filed draft legislation had included one provision that explicitly required statewide courts to presume statements made from anonymous sources are false in a defamation claim.
After roughly one hour of discussion by the panel, DeSantis implored viewers to “stay tuned” for further news on discussions or actions taken by the government of Florida.
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