A few months ago, attorney Ames Grawert and I wrote about a defamation case filed by noted anti-vaccine crank Barbara Loe Fisher against respected journalist Amy Wallace, vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit, and Conde Nast. The suit arose from a statement by Offit in an excellent article by Wallace. At one point in the lengthy article, Offit is quoted as saying, regarding Loe Fisher, “She lies.”
Loe Fisher launched the defamation suit based on these two words, claiming they made her appear “odious, infamous, and ridiculous.” Anyone who has read Loe Fisher’s writing at her National Vaccine Information Center knows that she needs no help in this regard.
But the judge who drew the case didn’t comment on Loe Fisher’s idiocy, just her error in thinking that the law protects her from heated criticism. The case was dismissed today. In his ruling, US District Judge Claude Hilton stated that since it is nearly impossible to prove or disprove the statement “she lies”, something statute requires, and that since hyperbole uttered in heated debates is clearly protected free speech, the case cannot proceed.
Thank the US Constitution and our long history of protection of free speech for our ability to duke it out verbally without fear of an avalanche of frivolous lawsuits. Scientific fact is not a matter of law, and science cannot proceed in an atmosphere of fear of open debate.
Shame on you Barbara (of course, there will always be an England).