Federal judge warns ‘dangerous’ media has ‘very close to one-party control’ in blistering libel case dissent

United States District of Columbia Court of Appeals
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Judge Laurence Silberman calls New York Times, Washington Post ‘virtually Democratic Party broadsheets’

federal appeals court judge has offered a blistering dissent in an obscure libel case that takes the measure of the mainstream media‘s bias.

The case centers on a 2018 report from Global Witness Publishing that accused Liberian government officials Christiana Tah and Randolph McClain of accepting bribes from Exxon. Tah and McClain sued Global Witness alleging defamation and their claims were dismissed in Friday’s ruling. 

However, in the course of his partial dissent (see PDF below), D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman went on an unprecedented written tirade against the press, in which he argued that the Supreme Court should revisit the landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan ruling that granted the media broad First Amendment protections from being sued by public officials.

“[N]ew considerations have arisen over the last 50 years that make the New York Times decision (which I believe I have faithfully applied in my dissent) a threat to American Democracy,” he write. “It must go.”

“The increased power of the press is so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions,” said Silberman, who was nominated to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan and has been a senior judge on the D.C. Circuit Court since 2000.

By Joseph A. Wulfsoh

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Christiana Tah And Randolph Mcclain, Appellants V. Global Witness Publishing, Inc. And Global Witness, Appellees PDF

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