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Hustler Magazine not at Fault

Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

In November 1983, Hustler magazine included an advertisement of Rev. Jerry Falwell describing his "first time" where Falwell describes his first time as being and incestuous experience in an outhouse with his mother, and portrays him as being a drunkard in the faux ad about Campari liquor.  

Hustler magazine released an entire series of advertisements just like these, where celebrities were interviewed and openly discussed their first time experience with Campari liquor.  These advertisements were seen as humorous and parody material, meaning the magazine's editors thought any reasonable person would understand that these statements that insinuated Falwell had a drunken incestuous "first time" experience with his mother AS outrageous and fictional, especially when Falwell was asked if he drank Campari liqour regularly and responded with, "Oh, yeah. I always get sloshed before I go out to the pulpit. You don't think I could lay down all that bullshit sober, do you." A disclaimer was printed at the bottom of the article, as well as next to the page number in the table of contents to ensure that these statements were fiction.  

.  Falwell however sued the magazine for libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. There was clearly no invasion of privacy because Falwell is a public personso the libel claim was rejected on account of the accusations being so farfetched. Hustler magazine was not at fault for creating a parody of an interview being knowingly conducted on Falwell's first time with Campari liquor. Hustler magazines, Campari, liquor ad does not create libel, invasion of privacy or intentionally inflict emotional distress on Rev. Jerry Falwell.  

 While Falwell won a few rounds of this fight, he ultimately lost because he couldn't prove three things to clam intentional infliction of emotional distress; it amounted to statement of fact, not an opinion, it was a false statement of fact, and whoever published the article was aware they were false, which means proof of actual malice.  Falwell claimed that emotional distress was intentionally inflicted upon him because the statements described a false happening. Proof of actual malice, knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth, was not able to be presented to the court. Therefore a public official, such as Falwell, cannot recover damages for defamatory material unless it is proved false. At Parody is defined as any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc. Therefore, the fact that the disclaimer stated the advertisement was a parody, dismisses any thoughts of the implications of an incestuous relationship with his mother to be true. After these guidelines were established the court ruled the following,

"At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern. The freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty – and thus a good unto itself – but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole. We have therefore been particularly vigilant to ensure that individual expressions of ideas remain free from governmentally imposed sanctions."


Falwell was obviously a public figure, and since the accusations were not "obscene," he was not subject to the First Amendment, this leaves him the only option but to be subject to actual-malice when such dilemmas arise.  In conclusion, Hustler magazine was not at fault for Falwells accusations of libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

[1] "Hustler Magazine v. Falwell." -- Welcome to the Consumer Medication Information Library. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>.


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