Slander and libel are easy to confuse. While slander means someone has verbally said something or made gestures that harm a reputation, libel means it is published in a more permanent form. Libel can occur in the form of a radio broadcast, a newspaper article, a flyer, and even an announcement. Both slander and libel defame someone’s character and are often statements that are not true, and this results in the person’s reputation being damaged in the community.
For example, slander could be:
- untrue remarks that result in someone losing a job
- gestures that belittle and embarrass a person to the point of emotional breakdown
Libel could be:
- a newspaper article that makes a mistake so large that a business goes bankrupt
- a radio announcement that announces untrue statements about a person that result in financial loss and emotional stress
What is important in these cases is that famous people and people in high government positions cannot be slandered or libeled. The reasoning behind this is that famous people like actors, sports stars and musicians have knowingly put themselves in the public spotlight, and therefore should expect criticism, parodies and gossip. This is why certain magazines and TV shows can ridicule movie stars and spread gossip and not get in trouble.
Government officials have also knowingly put themselves in the public spotlight, and because Americans have a right to participate in a democracy, discussion about these officials is allowed even when it is untrue and hurtful. In fact, many people believe that heating discussion and name-calling is sometimes what helps determine the best candidates. Many also believe that releasing anger about certain laws or governmental decisions is important, and that if it wasn’t legal to name-call and direct verbal anger toward government officials, people would resort to violence.
However, everyone else has recourse if they are slandered or libeled. Contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in defamation cases if your reputation has been damaged. Slander and libel can result in financial loss, bankruptcy, loss of property, loss of standing in the community, emotional injury and embarrassment.