Defame in haste, repent and pay at leisure. One would think that major media outlets would have learned a lesson about issuing knee-jerk, potentially defamatory reactions to ambiguous photo ops after the settlements given to Nicholas Sandmann in the embarrassing Covington Catholic High School coverage, but … this is The View, after all.
After some protesters showed up to a Turning Point USA event in Florida purporting to be neo-Nazis, the hosts on the ABC News program repeatedly painted the group and its members as fellow neo-Nazis — even while attempting to use disclaimers shielding themselves from legal action. TPUSA escalated the matter yesterday, sending a warning that a big defamation action may soon follow:
Turning Point USA issued a scathing cease-and-desist letter to ABC News on Tuesday, calling for the Disney-owned company to “retract the defamatory statements” made earlier this week on “The View” or face legal action.
“The false statements of fact intentionally made during The View’s July 25th segment were unquestionably harmful to TPUSA’s reputation and brought the organization and its student affiliates into disrepute with the public, potential donors, and current and future business partners, posing a significant financial loss to the organization,” the letter said.
Just how bad was it? This bad:
“Neo-Nazis were out there in the front of the conference with anti-Semitic slurs and, you know, the Nazi swastika and a picture of a so-called Jewish person with exaggerated features, just like Goebbels did during the Third Reich. It’s the same thing, right out of that same playbook,” Behar said.
She then said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “did nothing,” but failed to mention that the Republican governor attended the event the day before neo-Nazis appeared. …
Later on the program, “The View” read an on-air legal disclaimer to inform viewers that Turning Point USA condemned the neo-Nazis protesters who had “nothing to do” with the organization.
“But you let them in, and you knew what they were,” Whoopi Goldberg inaccurately said before the panelists were forced to read another disclaimer and explain that the neo-Nazis were “outside protesters” and TPUSA didn’t let them in. “My point was metaphorical,” Goldberg said.
They got corrected twice on air, and yet persisted in the argument that TPUSA endorsed neo-Nazis. Disney’s legal department must have had to replace all of their desks over the forehead-sized dents in them after that episode, or at least they should have had to do so.
Making it worse, TPUSA had already issued a statement the day before The View‘s segment condemning the demonstration. They also noted that their attendees had confronted the purported neo-Nazis before deciding to ignore them, a strategy TPUSA said was more effective:
TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet said on Sunday the group “100% condemns those ideologies in the strongest of terms” and said the neo-Nazis have “nothing to do” with the organization.
“Since these individuals were located on public property, our security attempted to, but was not permitted to remove them. We have no idea who they are or why they were here,” Kolvet said in a statement.
“Our students, after initially confronting them, ultimately took the mature route and vacated the space. Once that happened, these individuals left.”
It might get worse if TPUSA really does pursue legal action. If this demonstration turned out to be a ratf*****g stunt by fake neo-Nazis, it won’t help ABC News’ defense of reporting on “news” in this instance. But even if these were legit neo-Nazis, who certainly and unfortunately exist in large enough numbers on the fringe to organize an idiotic stunt, their demonstration outside of a political event does not in any way equate to an endorsement by the event of the demonstration. That’s not even a reasonable interpretation of the situation. Had the neo-Nazis been inside the event and organizing within it, then that would give plenty of room for that kind of characterization.
That’s how The View’s hosts painted it, falsely and with clear defamatory intent, despite twice being told they were wrong. That certainly looks like Sandmann territory to me, even with the Sullivan caveat of TPUSA being very much a “public” entity where actual malice would have to be proven. Expect a third “clarification” soon, and perhaps an apology — or a vastly entertaining lawsuit. Either way, pass the popcorn, and take bets on when ABC will finally ring down the curtain on this ongoing embarrassment.