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July 25, 2004
Claim of Libel Threat is Made - No One Bothers to Check if it is True
From my provincial American point of view, British libel law sucks. The First Amendment provides strong protection against libel charges by public figures, while British law seemingly favors such plaintiffs. So, you'll often hear about public figures suing for libel (or, more often, threatening to sue) in British courts instead of futilely going to American courts.
So it was with great interest that I read yesterday's New York Times' article about former President Clinton making changes to his autobiography, My Life, for publication in the UK (Changing His 'Life' to Suit British Law). Apparently, the British publisher feared a libel suit from Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor and nemesis of then-President Clinton.
Strangely, though the article claimed that the publishers feared a lawsuit from Starr (now Dean of Pepperdine Univ. School of Law), there was no mention that either the British publishers or the New York Times reporter had spoken to Starr and asked his opinion of the matter. How hard would it have been for the NY Times reporter to get at least a "no comment" from Starr's office?
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