A bill that would severely limit Florida’s media protection has stalled in the state legislature and will not go to vote this year. This is a rare example of right-wing forces sabotaging part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ agenda.
A bill introduced in February proposed sweeping changes to the law protecting the press from liability for defamation cases and aimed to make it easier for private citizens to file defamation lawsuits. make a frank claim As for the law, he said, it would “hold these big media companies accountable.”
But Mr. DeSantis, a Republican known for his sensitivity to right-wing pulsations, seems to have misjudged the issue. In addition to opposition from the press and free speech groups, the law faced problems such as: wave of resistance From his allies, including right-wing news outlets, Christian groups, and business groups. They argued that the law would harm all media outlets, including conservative ones, and lead to an increase in frivolous and costly lawsuits.
Florida’s bill was part of a broader effort to reconsider First Amendment protections for the media. In recent years, a series of judges, politicians, and lawyers (mostly conservatives) have sharply criticized the landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision, The New York Times Company v. Sullivan, with prominent figures It made it harder to win a defamation lawsuit. the publisher.
Their stance received renewed attention as Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against Fox News. Last minute settlement of that incident two weeks ago Postpone a high-profile exam the limits of its precedent. The quiet demise of a heavily monitored Florida law that should have been challenged in court appears to have blocked another bill.
The law narrows the definition of who qualifies as a public figure, automatically presumes statements made by anonymous sources to be false, and defines certain types of statements as defamatory. I will teach.
Florida’s annual legislative session ends Friday, and neither bill will go to a full floor vote in 2023 unless there are late changes or a special session.
The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alex Andrade, said he didn’t expect his bill to pass the committee, adding: “We need to focus on finalizing the budget and more time-sensitive matters.” Stated.
Victoria Mohebpool, an aide to Senator Jason Brodeur, the bill’s sponsor, said that while “the governor was clearly interested in this kind of bill,” “philosophically some people don’t agree with it.” There was no,” he said, so the proposal fell through.
The bill’s collapse stands out as a rare legislative blow to DeSantis, who is preparing to run for president this year’s Congress. But in the case of the defamation bill, it was DeSantis’s backers who showed the force.
“The moment conservative press outlets started noticing this rumor, it was stopped immediately,” said Javier Mangia, publisher of The Floridian, a conservative site that normally supports the governor’s agenda. Mr. Les said. wrote an article It said the bill, if signed by DeSantis, would constitute “irreversible self-inflicted political wounds.”
“They were trying to attack the liberal media, but they didn’t expect it to boomerang over them,” said the editor-in-chief of Trump-backed digital media Florida’s Voice. Brendon Leslie said. DeSantis. He and others feared the bill, if passed, would fuel lawsuits that could put many conservative publications out of business.
Mr. Leslie sparring on twitter With Mr. Andrade on legislation.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative non-profit, and the Bureau for Better Business also said the bill would raise insurance rates and prevent nasty lawsuits that could cause endless headaches for business interests. He opposed the bill, claiming it would lead to an avalanche.
Anthony Sabatini, a former Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives who said he supported the bill, believed pressure from the right-wing press was important.
“I saw lawmakers being attacked by conservative media influencers,” Sabatini said. “The Republican leadership was under attack from all directions, from the right and left. It killed it.
A spokesman for Mr DeSantis declined to answer questions about the bill, instead Round-table discussion on defamation He said it represented “the governor’s position on media accountability,” which he hosted in early February.
In that case, Mr. DeSantis called for a complete overhaul of the press shield, including overturning Sullivan’s precedent.
“Our view in Florida is that we want to stand up for the little guy against these big media conglomerates,” DeSantis said at the time.
In early 2022, the governor’s legislative assistant circulated a draft bill containing many of the same provisions as the bill introduced this year.
Andrade, a trial attorney in private practice in Pensacola, Fla., said he plans to introduce a revised version of the bill when Congress returns for its next session early next year.
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