The legacy of Andrew Breitbart is safe in the hands of those who have assumed control of his Internet enterprise. It’s that legacy of lies, defamation, and ignorance, that endures in articles like the one posted yesterday that asserts that Sandra Fluke was a public figure when Rush Limbaugh broadcast a vile commentary that referred to her as a slut and a prostitute. And thus, she is fair game for libelous attacks.
It is rather dumbfounding that even after Limbaugh made an (insincere and weak) expression of regret, even after his advertisers have abandoned him in droves, apologists like the Breitbrats are still defending his boorish misogyny.
The column by William Bigelow begins by mocking President Obama for advocating public discourse “that doesn’t involve you being demeaned and insulted. Particularly when you’re a private citizen.” Bigelow then makes the argument that there is a legal basis for Fluke to be considered a public figure. He cites a Supreme Court opinion in the case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., which addressed the standards of libel for defamatory statements. In refuting the representation of Fluke as a private citizen, Bigelow wrote…
“According to the Supreme Court in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), public figures include those who ‘have thrust themselves into the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved … they invite attention and comment.'”
Consistent with the Breitbartian proclivity for misrepresentation and taking edited content out of context, Bigelow deliberately quoted a brief portion of the opinion that described a commonly held view of what might constitute a public figure, but he left out the conclusive language that found that the plaintiff was not, in fact, a public person:
“We would not lightly assume that a citizen’s participation in community and professional affairs rendered him a public figure for all purposes. Absent clear evidence of general fame or notoriety in the community, and pervasive involvement in the affairs of society, an individual should not be deemed a public personality for all aspects of his life.”
The court found definitively that Gertz, was not a public figure. Nevertheless, Bigelow cites this case to try to prove that Fluke, who was unknown to the public when she was prohibited from appearing before a congressional committee hearing that almost nobody would have seen anyway, was a public figure.
It is not the least bit surprising that Bigelow chose this particular case with which to deceive his readers. The plaintiff, Elmer Gertz, was an attorney who had represented the family of man who was murdered by a Chicago police officer. The respondent, Robert Welch, Inc., is better known as the John Birch Society, a virulently racist and McCarthyesque anti-communist organization. I’m sure that the Breitbrats have a great affinity for the Birchers.
Next Bigelow makes a bold attempt to assert that Sarah Palin is not a public figure. Seriously! Sarah Palin, who was governor of Alaska and a candidate for Vice-President of the United States. Sarah Palin who is currently a Fox News political analyst and still floats hints of running for office. Bigelow contends that “Palin was just as much a private citizen as Fluke,” because she is no longer a governor. Sometimes the addled logic of these cretins is physically painful.
What apparently set Bigelow off on all of this is a statement Fluke made at a forum in Washington, D.C., where she said…
“Numerous American women have actually written to me in the last few weeks saying that I should run for office, and maybe someday I will.”
To which Bigelow sarcastically added, “Sandra Fluke. Private citizen. Yeah, right.” So it was that statement on which Bigelow based the entire premise of his article, as well as his assertion that Fluke was a public figure, even at the time that Limbaugh broadcast his attack. And that was all that was necessary for him to jump to the absurd conclusion that Fluke was somehow retroactively a public figure because weeks afterwards she would speculate that “someday” she “might” run for office.
What is really amazing about this is that anyone actually regards the Breitbrats as having any credibility whatsoever. After their promotion of deceitfully edited videos about ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, etc.; after their embarrassing episode with Hug-Gate, the Derrick Bell non-scandal; and now this incoherent excuse to prop up their hero Rush Limbaugh despite nearly universal condemnation of his abhorrent behavior, the fact that there are still some people who pay any attention at all to the Breitbrats is a sad commentary on a certain sector of the human race.