As I’ve noted before, Glenn Beck is being sued for defamation by a Saudi student he accused repeatedly of being the “money man” behind the Boston Marathon bombings, with not a shred of evidence. His response to that lawsuit is not surprising, but it’s pretty astonishing for its sheer chutzpah.
Broadcaster Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News, was nonetheless suspicious of Alharbi. He thought the Obama administration was hiding Alharbi’s involvement. So three weeks later, Beck urged the government to release its information on Alharbi or else Beck would “expose” him.
“While the media continues to look at what the causes were [behind] these two guys, there are, at this hour, three people involved,” Beck said, alleging the U.S. government had “tagged” Alharbi as a “proven terrorist.” Over several broadcasts, Beck called Alharbi the “money man” behind the Boston bombings. “You know who the Saudi is?” Beck asked. “He’s the money man. He’s the guy who paid for it.”
What Beck said about Alharbi was untrue. Alharbi sued Beck for defamation in federal court in late March. And now, in a batch of little-noticed motions, Beck has lashed back, saying Alharbi is trying to “punish” and impede Beck’s First Amendment rights. Beck argues the bombings made Alharbi a “limited purpose” and “involuntary” public figure who must prove not just that Beck made false accusations, but that Beck did it with “actual malice.”
It’s no surprise that his lawyers would make that argument. Under that standard, whether or not Beck’s claims were false becomes almost irrelevant. In most cases involving public figures, malice is so hard to demonstrate that the matter rarely goes to trial.
First, however, Beck’s lawyers will have to convince a judge that Alharbi is indeed a public figure, albeit an involuntary one, someone who thrusts himself into the limelight.
What makes Alharbi a public figure, according to Beck? “By behaving suspiciously at the Marathon finishing line when the bombs detonated, thereby causing his detention and a background check by law enforcement,” states Beck’s motion to dismiss, Alharbi “embarked on a course of conduct that was reasonably likely to result in public attention and comment on his background, activities, and immigration status.” Plus, he gave interviews defending himself, said Beck’s legal team, led by Michael J. Grygiel.
Alharbi’s lawyers, led by Peter J. Haley, were incredulous at Beck’s argument. “An individual does not become a public figure due to the fact that he is investigated in connection with a crime, and then states publicly that he was not involved in the crime for which he was investigated.” To the extent Alharbi became known to the public, it was because of Beck’s “defamatory reporting.” They accused Beck of “bootstrapping,” creating his own defense by making a public figure out of Alharbi.
In other words: “He’s a public figure because I made him one.” And that “suspicious” behavior? He was fleeing the bomb site with his legs bleeding from having been hit by shrapnel. Wow, how suspicious that someone would want to get away in case there was another bomb. Man, I hope Beck gets hammered on this and loses millions.