An appellate court has ruled that Joy Reid, the new host of MSNBC’s 7 p.m. weeknight hour, should again face a defamation lawsuit over a woman’s claim that, in Reid’s social media posts, she falsely accused her of making racist remarks at a 2018 Simi Valley, CA city council meeting. The plaintiff in the case, …
An appellate court has ruled that Joy Reid, the new host of MSNBC’s 7 p.m. weeknight hour, should again face a defamation lawsuit over a woman’s claim that, in Reid’s social media posts, she falsely accused her of making racist remarks at a 2018 Simi Valley, CA city council meeting.
The plaintiff in the case, Roslyn La Liberte, contends that in one of Reid’s social media posts on Instagram, she defamed her by attributing racist remarks to her. Then in another post on Facebook and Instagram, La Liberte claims, Reid juxtaposed a photo from the council meeting with the 1957 image of a white woman in Little Rock screaming execrations at a Black child trying to go to school.
The appellate ruling overturns a district judge’s decision that the case should be dismissed.
The judges overturned a lower court ruling that La Liberte is a limited purpose public figure, something that would require a higher threshold to prove defamation.
“Accordingly, she was not required to allege that Reid acted with actual malice as to either post,” the three-judge panel wrote. “Moreover, the court erred by characterizing Reid’s second post as nonactionable opinion … That post could be interpreted as accusing La Liberte of engaging in specific racist conduct, which is a provable assertion of fact and therefore actionable.”
The appellate court also ruled that the case could not be dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, designed to prevent plaintiffs from stifling free speech via litigation. The judges found that the California law was “inapplicable” in federal court because “it increases a plaintiff’s burden to overcome pretrial dismissal.”
The appellate court agreed with another aspect of the district judge’s ruling — that Reid is not protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That provides immunity to sites for content posted by third parties. “To the contrary, she is the sole author of both allegedly defamatory posts,” the judges wrote.
A spokesperson for Reid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In June 2018, La Liberte spoke at the council meeting to speak out against a state law that limits cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
Photographed with a 14-year-old Hispanic teenager near her, La Liberte was shown with her hand to her throat and making a gagging gesture.
One activist, Alan Vargas, tweeted the photo on June 28 with the caption, “You are going to be the first deported” [and] “’dirty Mexican’ [w]ere some of the things they yelled they yelled [sic] at this 14 year old boy. He was defending immigrants at a rally and was shouted down. Spread this far and wide this woman needs to be put on blast.”
Reid retweeted Vargas’s tweet the next day.
La Liberte, though, takes issue with Reid’s further posts. On June 29, she posted the photo on Instagram with the caption, “He showed up to a rally to defend immigrants . . . . She showed up too, in her MAGA hat, and screamed, ‘You are going to be the first deported’ . . . ‘dirty Mexican!’ He is 14 years old. She is an adult. Make the picture black and white and it could be the 1950s and the desegregation of a school. Hate is real, y’all. It hasn’t even really gone away.”
More to come.