By now everyone knows that Al Jazeera published a story about Peyton Manning taking human growth hormone in violation of NFL rules, and now the “source” of the story has recanted the statements. Although the Loeschen Law Firm blog normally declines to get too involved in topical matters in the media, the implications of this baseless allegation should not go unmentioned.
The first problem is that the mainstream media outlets, national and local, including television, internet and print, actually gave Al Jazeera credibility in reporting the Manning story without first independently checking the sources and facts.
The second problem is that the national and local news media were careful to report the story as Al Jazeera reporting the Manning story, thereby reporting the substance of the story without actually having to stand behind the statements or check any sources. So the result is that the news media gets the benefit of a ratings boost during a slow news cycle while at the same time limiting its liability for a defamation lawsuit. And Manning, an American sports icon, pays the price.
Does Manning have a defamation case against Al Jazeera? Absolutely. On a silver platter. Will he sue? Doubtful. He’s not only too classy for that, but as far as Al Jazeera is concerned, consider the source. Al Jazeera is essentially a foreign news service that has demonstrated a complete disregard for the standards of an American free press. Sometimes the best thing to do when crackpots bring false allegations is to ignore them. But the real crime here is that not only did the American media instantly jump on Al Jazeera’s bandwagon, but it hid behind Al Jazeera to do it.