Exxon Claims It Doesn’t Hate Children

Exxon hated this video by Exxon Hates Your Children so much that Exxon threatened “legal action” against TV stations in Arkansas who had planned to run it as a paid ad.

Even assuming that the ad is wrong, and Exxon doesn’t hate our children, what would the nature of the claim be? I thought almost no states permitted claims alleging a corporation was libeled?

Update: Crude censorship on Arkansas oil spill story

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3 Responses to Exxon Claims It Doesn’t Hate Children

  1. “I thought almost no states permitted claims alleging a corporation was libeled?”

    ?? Florida permits it. Which states do not?

    • Thank you for the correction.

      Having now actually looked, it appears corporations can be libeled in at least most of these United States, which strikes me as a bit odd. I recall reading that Texas’s ‘veggie libel’ law was unusual, and assumed (always a dangerous maneuver in law) that the rule was the same for libeling corporations. But it appears that’s not right.

      But, really, isn’t there something odd about the idea of libeling a corporation? Or are these guys right after all? (Note that I don’t find anything odd about an ‘unfair competition’ claim if the false statement is for commercial/competitive gain.)

      I guess the next question is when a corporation is considered a public figure. I imagine whatever the standard on that, Exxon meets it.

  2. “But, really, isn’t there something odd about the idea of libeling a corporation? ”

    “A good reputation is more valuable than money.” Publilius Syrus

    Wouldn’t it be odd if a law firm, mom-and-pop restaurant, auto repair shop or family-owned AC service company could not sue to protect the entity’s reputation from defamation? Hardly anybody operates as sole proprietorship these days.

    “I guess the next question is when a corporation is considered a public figure.”

    Yes, sometimes:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=1223664864998464680
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13144031579634799114

    If Bose is a public figure, surely Exxon is. But the fact that the target of defamation is a public figure is not a complete defense, it is defeated by a showing of actual malice.

    In any case, I hardly see that anything in that video is defamatory. For one, I’m not sure a corporation can “hate”, only human beings can do that. As such, the video is clearly nothing more than pure opinion regarding Exxon’s policies. There is a factual allegation as to the money received in subsidies, but true or not, it is hard to understand how that nugget could be defamatory.

    At the same time, one could imagine situations where defamatory statements about a corporation could lead to standing for suits by its officers, e.g. “Exxon hates Blacks, or Exxon hates Jews”. My argument would be that at some extreme point you cross a line between defaming the entity and are really attacking the people in it, who themselves may not be public figures. On the other hand, when that line is crossed the speech is so extreme that it is not taken seriously and is essentially harmless.

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