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Federal court upholds Esquire's 'birther' article as protected political satire

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  1. Libel and Privacy
A federal appellate court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday found that the author of a “birther” book could…

A federal appellate court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday found that the author of a “birther” book could not claim defamation against Esquire magazine for what the court said was “fully protected political satire.”

The Esquire article, written in jest, claimed author Jerome Corsi and publisher Joseph Farah were pulling the book from the shelves after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate.

“[I]t is the nature of satire that not everyone ‘gets it’ immediately . . . ,” the court wrote. “Indeed, satire is effective as social commentary precisely because it is often grounded in truth.”

The court found that a reasonable reader would not take the article as fact, given that readers of the “Politics Blog” were politically informed and understood the controversy, that the strong language used is not typically found in news stories, and that the substance of the article itself was inconceivable.

The court upheld Esquire's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim but chose not to decide on Esquire's special motion to dismiss under the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute, declining to assert whether the anti-SLAPP statute applies in federal court.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· News: Esquire defends satire against “birther” authors in federal court