A Minneapolis blogger was ordered on Friday to pay $60,000 in damages to an ex-community leader who lost his job because of the blogger’s reporting — even though that reporting was accurate. John Hoff connected Jerry Moore, who was employed by the University of Minnesota to study mortgage foreclosures, to a mortgage fraud. Even though the accusations turned out to be true, the jury ruled against Hoff in a suit and awarded Moore $35,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.
It was a bad day for the First Amendment.
Moore couldn’t sue for libel because in order to win a libel suit, you have to prove falsity. Even so, the jury still thought Hoff’s posts were damaging enough to merit legal redress. For two years now, Moore and Hoff have been engaged in a legal battle, which has now culminated in the First Amendment being kicked in the shins. It’s supposed to protect free expression; this was a case of free expression that was not libelous, being truthful; ergo, I’m afraid to write anything now.
In other words, if the Westboro Baptist Church can legally show up to a soldier’s funeral bearing “God Hates Fags” signs, you’d think a blogger could tell the truth without fear of retribution.