President Trump last week received a First Amendment victory when New York Supreme Court Judge David Benjamin Cohen dismissed a privacy lawsuit against Trump and Logan Cook, also known as “CarpeDonktum” on social media, over a meme Cook created.
According to court documents, in September 2019, the plaintiffs recorded a video of their two-year-old toddlers, one black and the other white, “hugging each other on a New York City sidewalk,” which went viral as “a symbol of racial unity.”
Cook allegedly “shared the video with Trump, who was then President of the United States, as well as Trump’s campaign, TFP, and misappropriated the video by altering it and intentionally using it out of context to create ‘an extremely distorted and false message.'”
The Hollywood Reporter described the alleged “altering” Cook did to the video in question.
Cook found a video of a white toddler running after a black toddler and stuck a chyron reading “breaking news” over it. The captions read, “Terrified Todler [sic] Runs From Racist Baby” and “Racist Baby Probably A Trump Voter.”
The video then fades to black, and reads, “What actually happened.” The toddlers run at each other and embrace. A new caption: “AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM…FAKE NEWS IS. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES.”
The court document also states that on June 18, 2020, Trump tweeted Cook’s video on his personal account, which gained over 20 million views. The next day Facebook and Twitter removed the video from Trump’s account due to several reasons including: violation of copyright laws, lack of approval from the plaintiffs, and what Twitter says is “likely to cause harm” to the plaintiffs. Cook was reportedly permanently banned from Twitter, but still shared the video on his Instagram account.
The plaintiffs then filed a lawsuit against Trump and Cook over the claim that the video violated “New York privacy and publicity rights law (N.Y. Civil Rights Law §§50 and 51) and was both an intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
On June 9, Judge Cohen decided to dismiss the case because the video was “newsworthy” and clearly satire.
“Initially, as defendants assert, the video was newsworthy,” Cohen stated. “To promote freedom of expression, the meaning of ‘newsworthiness’ has been broadly construed and includes ‘not only descriptions of actual events … but also articles concerning political happenings, social trends, or any subject of public interest.’”
“It is common knowledge that one of the principal tactics of Trump’s presidential campaigns, as well as his presidency, was to incessantly attack the mainstream media as purveyors of ‘fake news,’ including his claim that the media exaggerates the extent of racial division in this country. Thus, the video’s references to ‘fake news’ and its depiction of race relations, however distorted, are clearly newsworthy,” Cohen said in his decision. “Since the video is therefore a satire, albeit one which some may consider to be rather distasteful, this Court is constrained to find that it is not actionable.”
Although the judge ruled in favor of Trump and Cook, he denied Trump’s SLAPP claim to cover his legal fees.
“Although this Court rejected plaintiffs’ argument, it finds that they set forth a good faith basis for the extension of existing law and, thus, plaintiffs should not be penalized by the draconian language set forth in CRL §§ 70-a and 76-a,” Cohen’s decision clarifies.
After securing this win, President Trump set out to challenge Facebook, Google, and Twitter over censorship in a major class-action lawsuit, RSBN previously reported.