Glenn Beck To Face Defamation Lawsuit Involving Boston Marathon Bombing

beck-too-crazyFar too often, people get confused when citing the 1st Amendment and believe that like their understanding of the 2nd Amendment, their rights are unlimited. Take for example the folks behind Open Carry Texas and other organizations who initially were carrying weapons into places like Starbucks that were not accepting of guns inside of their businesses.

When told to leave their weapons at home or in their vehicles, some these gun fanatics pitched a fit and claimed they should be able to take a gun wherever they wanted, because of the 2nd Amendment.

The same thing goes with the 1st Amendment which many people believe gives them the right to say whatever they want, as well as give them total immunity from the consequences of their speech. When confronted by others who are offended by racist, sexist or otherwise troubling remarks, the claim of free speech is brought out in an attempt to justify or protect the speaker from potential repercussions. As demonstrated in the recently viral Tumblr posts “Racist Getting Fired“, many people making racist comments in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision found out the hard way that their understanding of the 1st Amendment was totally flawed.

So what does the 1st Amendment actually say? Here’s the text of it.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that it says that “Congress shall make no law” and doesn’t say anything about private employers requiring people who work for them to follow certain standards to avoid reflecting badly on the company both in public or online, including social media. Many businesses, including the one I work for, have social media policies that outline what is and is not acceptable behavior both on and off the clock.

This is the predicament that Glenn Beck now finds himself in with the lawsuit Alharbi v. Beck et al, filed with the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, case No. 14-11550. The background of the case is that Glenn Beck repeatedly named Abdulrahman Alharbi as being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, a claim that he repeated over and over again on his program, despite the fact that Mr. Alharbi was cleared of any wrongdoing and authorities ended the probe. While Glenn Beck’s assertions that Abdulrahman Alharbi was indeed involved may have been free speech and the government couldn’t press criminal charges, U.S. District Judge Patti Saris ruled that Glenn Beck, his company The Blaze as well as a distributor of his radio show were not immune from a civil defamation lawsuit.

Alharbi, of Revere, Massachusetts, said the statements damaged his reputation and subjected him to messages calling him a murderer, child killer and terrorist.

Saris rejected defense arguments that the lawsuit be dismissed because Alharbi was a “limited purpose” or “involuntary” public figure who failed to show that Beck acted with “actual malice,” meaning he lied or recklessly disregarded the truth. (Source)

While I’m not a lawyer, here’s the basic reasoning behind the rejection Beck’s request to have the lawsuit thrown out. His attorneys claimed that Glenn Beck’s repeated allegations that Mr. Alharbi funded or otherwise assisted Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the April 2013 were immune from the defamation lawsuit since Mr. Alharbi was considered an “involuntary” public figure at the time. However, even after Abdulrahman Alharbi had been cleared of any involvement, therefore removing him from being a public figure, Glenn Beck knowingly and willingly continued to assert that he was responsible for the bombings. At this point, the behavior changed from criticism or allegations against a public figure to harassment and defamation of a private citizen. Mr. Beck also had a radio show which he used to broadcast these defamatory remarks which then made his company and the distributor of his show liable as well.

Glenn Beck and his listeners can claim free speech all they want, but at the end of the day, they’re about to get a hard lesson as to how the 1st Amendment actually works.


Facebook comments

  • marecek21

    Even if someone is a public figure, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to spew obvious lies against them. Sure, in order for a public figure to sue someone for defamation, he would have to meet a tougher standard – actual malice, meaning that the defamer disseminated his statements knowing they were false or acting in reckless disregard of the truth. I’m guessing Beck had absolutely nothing to go on in making those statements (isn’t that the norm for him), so it is not hard to imagine that his conduct would qualify under the actual malice standard.

    • Eg Kbbs

      The statements he made were after Alhabri was cleared. Statements were on video and in print (as both oral and written set up for suit on libel and slander). As after Alhabri was cleared, show a reckless disregard for the facts.

      Charge of setting up the Boston Marathon bombing is extremely serious and besides the assault on Alhabri’s reputation could also be reasonably be predicted to result in damages including employment, peril of personal safety, and even federal felonies such as treason. So even without the judge ruling that he wasn’t a public figure, the suit had merit.

      With the judge ruling (and properly so) that Alhabri wasn’t a public figure, this should be the shortest trial in history.

  • DavidD

    Actions have consequences and nobody is supposed t be above the law.Beck’s utter disregard of other people’s rights in his heedless pursuit of money and influence have finally caught up with him.
    He loves mney and power more than anything else so having to pay back with those two things is justice.
    Since many of his followers are magical thinkers they will desert him for a new sociopath and give him their loyalty and money.
    Beck will bankrupt himself and be doing more infomercials or go more into religion for money soon.

  • Gary Smith

    I’m okay with this.

  • GenerallyConfused

    If a person is a public figure and you spout out lies about them knowingly, you are still liable for the defamation. Why does the wonderfully intelligent (*cough*sarcasm*cough*) Glenn Beck not already know this?

  • Pennsylvanianne

    I hope Mr. Alhari wins, and wins big. Such destruction of a person’s reputation by likes of someone like Glenn Beck must not go unpunished.

  • Danny Metcalfe

    Someone who spouts off about the constitution as much as Beck does should reallly have read a few lines down from amendment #1.. Theres another line in there about a citizen being presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. And something for my fellow glenn beck haters to consider, Beck may not have INTENTIONALLY defamed anyone; he is, bear in mind, genuinely stupid.

  • Kalar Walters

    Does this mean there’s any hope of muzzling certain commentators on FOX news channel and/or right-wing websites? What a dream come true that would be….for me, anyway. Maybe this action, if Alharbi wins, will make them cool their jets.

  • Gilberto Urroz

    I hope he looses a good chunk of his money. This time he’ll cry for real.

  • Ghost

    This site SUCKS for not publishing my comment.

    Next step: UNSUBSCRIBE!

  • asconn

    The First Amendment is a privilege of U.S. Citizenship pursuant to the Constitution. If you believe that a privilege is the same as a “right”, then you would probably disagree with Judge Saris’ finding because a “right” would mean that one could just say whatever they felt like saying, regardless. For me, the difference between the privilege and the right is the exercise of discretion, and, most importantly, knowledge of the facts. Mr. Beck and his contemporaries Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Brien, and many other fact-benders, would do well to learn the difference between privilege and right because that privilege to speak freely comes with the responsibility to be accountable for what you say if you infringe the rights of another citizen.

  • Shaun Winslow Lafave

    so if the glove doesn’t fit you must acquit