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Samuel L. Jackson made a political statement by supporting the Obama campaign but he never expected to be called the 'New Uncle Tom' for doing it.
Randall Terry, a man so ambitious he's running both for President and for Congress representing Florida, went after Jackson with an ad that accuses Jackson of supporting racists. The ads also make specific claims about the organizations Jackson supports.
He's also gone so far as to call Jackson the 'New Uncle Tom' for allegedly supporting racists.
Not one to take insults lightly, Jackson has sent Terry a letter through his attorney asking him to take the ads and a website Terry owns called www.UncleTomJackson.com. But Terry's not backing down.
The ads claim that Jackson supports organizations which want "to abort Black babies" and "sterilize Black men and women" and advocate "Black genocide," according to the letter to Terry. The letter goes on to say those claims are false and threatens a suit for defamation, reports Mother Jones.
Terry calls his statements 'political dissent' and maintains that any lawsuit would fail since his ads are protected as free speech.
It's true that suits for defamation related to political campaigns are often unsuccessful even if the claims in the campaign ads are false. But those ads generally target an opposing candidate, not a citizen. Even though he's famous, Jackson isn't running for office.
Many of the false statements don't lie about things affecting Jackson, but they do affect his reputation which is key to a defamation case.
In a suit for defamation you have to prove several things. You have to show that the defendant made false statements to the media, they caused you injury, and they weren't protected speech. It doesn't require that the statements that caused injury were about the person injured.
Often campaign speech is protected because it's about public figures or elected officials.
In general, we encourage people to speak their minds about political people in the spirit of democracy. That doesn't equate to political figures being able to speak their mind about everything without impunity.
So far it doesn't appear that Terry intends to take down the ads, as reported by Mother Jones. If that's true he may be surprised when he finds himself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.