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‘Is being a conspiracy theorist almost a defense to the libel laws?: Roger Parloff

Yahoo Finance Contributor Roger Parloff joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down his thoughts on why Dominion v. MyPillow Guy poses a test for America’s libel laws.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Dominion Voting Systems is suing Michael Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, for $1.3 billion. And they're saying that Lindell falsely accused Dominion of rigging the 2020 election. For more on this, we want to bring in Roger Parloff. He is the Yahoo Finance contributor who is looking into this case. And Roger, you published an article on Yahoo Finance this morning saying that Dominion's suit here against Lindell poses a test for America's libel laws. Explain to us exactly what you mean by that.

ROGER PARLOFF: Sure. When a public figure in the US sues under the libel laws, the First Amendment, obviously, offers a lot of protections and privileges. And so, the question isn't whether the defendant should have known that what he said is false. The question is, you try to get inside the person's head, and did they actually know that what they were saying was false, or at least, did they actually have serious doubts? And the issue that arises is that with conspiracy theorists, they are very-- they seem to be very fervent believers in what they're saying, no matter how much evidence and logic you might marshal against their thesis.

And so the question sort of arises under that subjective standard, is being a conspiracy theorist almost a defense to the libel laws-- something analogous to the insanity defense in a criminal case. And so I explore that in this piece. And I think the long story short, I think the short answer is probably not, that there are other doctrines that sort of smuggle in a more objective standard and allow the jury to hear all the evidence and conclude that the person might have been lying.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, Roger, I want to talk to you about Michael Lindell's movie, "Absolute Proof." You go into some of the details in your story. Can you share them with us and what exactly the hubbub is about?

ROGER PARLOFF: Yeah, this is a movie, a docudrama. It's done in sort of a news magazine format that he put out in February. And just February alone is sort of newsworthy because, you know, in mid-December, Dominion and Smartmatic began serving many, many retraction demands. And most people began to issue clarifications and back off. But here he is in February, still coming out with a movie, which ran about 13 times on the OAN network in February.

And what it does is it-- he found what he called-- what appears to be a spreadsheet. And he says that it is absolute proof that the election was subject to an international cyber attack coming mainly from China, but also from Iran and Czech Republic, several other countries. And it purports to actually show each individual-- and there's an animated film that purports to illustrate the spreadsheet. And it purports to show each individual computer in China that was used by the hackers and each individual targeted tabulation device in the United States in 2,995 counties. And it even purports to show how many votes were, quote unquote, "stolen" from each of those tabulators that is moved from Trump to Biden.

And of course, I asked four very well credentialed experts in computer security and election security about the spreadsheet and the animated film. And they all agreed that it was not just-- the spreadsheet was not just a fake, but an extremely crude fake made by people that really didn't know what they were talking about.

SEANA SMITH: And Roger, we've been covering the business aspect of this, meaning Mike Lindell's impact that it's had on the MyPillow business. And I know at the end of the piece, you talk about how you asked him how his business was doing. What did he have to say?

ROGER PARLOFF: Yeah, well, you know, things were getting a little-- he seemed to be getting angry during-- toward the end of the interview. And when I-- and actually, he brought up the fact that 22 retailers have dropped him. And so I asked the next question. So, does that mean that your MyPillow sales are going down? And he said, you know, that's none of your business. This interview is over. You're just going to write some left-wing crap. And he hung up on me.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Roger, we really appreciate you taking the time to come on here and explain this to us. And you can catch Roger's full piece. It's up on YahooFinance.com. It's "Dominion versus MyPillow guy poses a stark test for America's libel laws." Roger, thanks so much for taking the time.