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James Woods Scores Major Victory in Twitter Case

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Actor James Woods came out the victor on Wednesday after a federal appeals court threw out a defamation lawsuit against Woods that stemmed from a March 2016 tweet.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit by Portia Boulger of Chillicothe, Ohio, The Associated Press reported.

Boulger sued Woods after he mistakenly identified her as a woman who appeared to give a Nazi salute during a rally for then-candidate President Donald Trump.

Woods retweeted the photos, asking: “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?”

The news media eventually identified the correct woman, who was not Boulger. Woods corrected his tweet and apologized to Boulger.

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Wednesday’s opinion was authored by Chief Circuit Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., according to Courthouse News.

The panel used Ohio’s “four-prong, totality-of-the-circumstances test” to assess the issue and debated whether a question can be defamatory.

“Some readers likely viewed the tweet as an insinuation that the woman in the Nazi salute photograph was Boulger. It seems equally plausible, though, that other readers interpreted the tweet as posing a question,” Cole wrote.

Cole said that because the statement was posed as a question, the verifiability of the statement does not come into play.

Are you glad James Woods won this case?

In assessing the “general and broader context of the statement,” the court ruled that anyone reading Woods’ Twitter account would have expected a mix of fact and opinion.

“These tweets illustrate that a reasonable reader of Woods’s tweets on March 12, 2016, likely knew that he made frequent use of sarcasm, exaggeration, and hyperbole — characteristics more likely seen in an opinion, rather than a statement of fact. Thus, the general context could lead a reasonable reader to believe the tweet at issue was not a statement of fact,” he wrote.

Cole said that because Twitter allows for spreading facts and opinions, the broader context of the tweet did not weigh in either party’s favor.

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Under Ohio law, a statement that could be either innocent or defamatory should be held in court as innocent. That played into the court’s ruling.

“Here, the tweet at issue is reasonably susceptible to both a defamatory meaning — that Woods was asserting Boulger was the woman giving the Nazi salute — and an innocent meaning — that Woods was merely asking his followers a question,” Cole wrote.

“Because Woods’s tweet could reasonably be read to have an innocent meaning, under the innocent construction rule the tweet, as a matter of law, is not actionable.”

Judge John Nalbandian, in a separate opinion, agreed with the ruling, but said a reasonable reader would have construed this as a question.

“An ordinary person sees a question mark and assumes the writer is asking a question. … Woods posed the question and provided two different pictures that the reader could look at to provide an answer, suggesting he meant it as a genuine inquiry,” he wrote.

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at jackwritings1@gmail.com.
Location
New York City
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Foreign Policy, Military & Defense Issues




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