1988 February 24

Hustler Magazine Hits the Supreme Court, Wins


A story in a 1983 issue of Hustler Magazine, published by Larry Flynt, featured a parody of a familiar advertisement, claiming that Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist minister and political leader of the Religious Right, had a drunken, incestuous relationship with his mother. Falwell sued to recover damages for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, decided on this day, the Supreme Court voted unanimously that the interest of protecting free speech, under the First Amendment, surpassed the state’s interest in protecting public figures from patently offensive speech, so long as such speech could not reasonably be construed to state actual facts about its subject.

The Court: “We conclude that public figures and public officials may not recover for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress by reason of publications such as the one here at issue without showing, in addition, that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with ‘actual malice,’ i.e., with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true.”

Watch a recording of Larry Flynt’s deposition in the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bi6CycM3mE

Learn more about the Hustler v. Falwell trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/falwell/falwellflynt.html

Watch the film: The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

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