SW Legal Educational Publishing

Beatleís Statement to Media About Being Raped Is Protected Hyperbole
Description George Harrisonís statement to newspaper about opponents in property litigation raping him was not basis for defamation action. Such a statement was rhetoric protected by First Amendment.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words First Amendment, Defamation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts During a trial involving an easement on property owned by George Harrison on Maui, Harrison said to a reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser, "Have you ever been raped? Iím being raped by all these people.... My privacy is being violated. The whole issue is my privacy." Plaintiffs, who were on the other side of the property dispute with Harrison, sued him and the newspaper for defamation. Trial court issued summary judgment for defendants. Plaintiffs appealed.
Decision The court adopted a three-part test set forth by the Ninth Circuit under the Milkovich case. Under that standard, Harrisonís statement "was not false and defamatory, but rhetorical hyperboleĖfigurative or hyperbolic language that would negate the impression that Harrison was asserting an objective fact about the Plaintiffs." No one reading the statement would believe the plaintiffs were rapists. Such speech is protected by the First Amendment and by the Hawaiian constitution.
Citation Gold v. Harrison, 1998 WL 379058 (Slip Copy, Inter. Ct. App., Haw.)
962 P. 2d 353 (Sup. Ct., Haw., 1998)

Back to Constitutional Law Listings

©1997-2000  South-Western, a division of Cengage Learning, Inc. Cengage Learning is a trademark used herein under license.