Top Dem lawyer ravaged for suggesting courts revisit landmark First Amendment case: 'Threat to free press'

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Top Democrat lawyer Marc Elias was accused of posing a “dangerous threat to free press” on Sunday after he called for the Supreme Court to revisit its landmark defamation ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan.

In a since-deleted tweet, Elias declared that “If the media is not going to be pro-democracy, then it probably is time for the courts to revisit New York Times v Sullivan (as conservative lawyers suggest). The case was premised on a role in democracy that the mainstream press seems increasingly disinterested in playing.” 

DARK MONEY NETWORK GIVES ELIAS FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR VOTING RIGHTS LAWSUITS: WATCHDOG

Elias, who rose to prominence on the left as the Democrat’s most aggressive election lawyer, wondered whether the strong legal protections afforded to the press in the 1964 Supreme Court ruling should be revisited. The ruling affirmed the threshold for defamation lawsuits and established the “actual malice” standard for public figures, restricting the ability for government officials to sue the press for defamation under the First Amendment.

Elias eventually deleted the tweet, claiming in a subsequent post that it was just a “test” to prove whether people care more about protecting the media’s First Amendment rights “than the rights of voters.” But reporters weren’t buying it.

“(As conservative lawyers suggest) is why it’s a bit hard to swallow that this was just a ruse to see how reporters would react, as a later tweet suggested,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote.

“This guy who purports to want to protect elections was just weeks ago saying reform of the Electoral Count Act was a ‘trap,’” journalist Josh Barro said.

“In a story as old as America, a powerful man doesn’t get the press coverage he wants, and then wonders whether the press has too much freedom,” New York Times reporter Nick Confessore remarked.

“Revisiting NYT v. Sullivan is about as close as you can come to saying throw out the 1st Amendment,” Techdirt founder Mike Masnick wrote.

“With all due respect, Marc, this last tweet of yours is why Twitter was probably not the place to have bring up this topic. Nor was it the place to have this conversation. You simply can’t rest your argument anymore on people reading more than one tweet, and the first one… whew,” said Vox senior correspondent Jamil Smith.

The Spectator contributing editor Stephen Miller noted Elias’ frequent appearances on CNN, where Brian Stelter, Jim Acosta and John Avlon have hailed the lawyer as a devoted champion of democracy and constitutional rights.

“Marc Elias has been given a regular platform on Brian Stelter’s CNN show and Jim Acosta’s CNN show,” Miller said. “So I guess we’ll see if they speak out against this dangerous threat to a free press.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta didn’t correct a false claim by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.

CNN’s Jim Acosta didn’t correct a false claim by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.
(CNN screenshot )

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Elias in a later post said that he has “deleted the original tweets to spare those receiving hate and vitriol as a result from a ruined Sunday, writing that he is “now back to my day job of fighing for voting rights.”



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