CHICAGO — Imagine that a senior government official takes to Twitter, makes a call to a national news outlet or goes on national television to disparage you. Imagine that he tells lies about you to a national audience, lies harmful to your professional or personal future. What could you do to remedy the situation?
You might seek a retraction. Perhaps you would go to colleagues and friends to privately plead your side of the case. Or if you were lucky enough to have a national platform of your own, maybe you would try to correct the defamatory statement in public.
But one thing you couldn’t do is sue. No judicial remedy exists when a federal official defames someone. This gap in the law isn’t a result of a conscious decision by Congress or federal judges to protect the government’s ability to defame you. It was created inadvertently. In an age when the political lie is being weaponized to increasing effect, it’s an oversight Congress should redress.
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