Nathan the Nobody makes a statement about how X company is horrible, mistreats its workers, has execs that elicit sex for favours, etc.

A publication (e.g. the New York Times) publishes a huge article about Nathan's claims and popularizes them, making everyone now believe that X company is terrible. Later on, it is completely obvious that Nathan was lying out of his ass, but the damage has been done to X company. X has every right/reason to destroy Nathan for defamation/slander/libel (whatever the applicable term is), but does X have any reasonable cause to go after the publication that actually gave it traction and popularized it (e.g. the New York Times in this case)?

  • The media has a responsibility to fact check things before reporting them. Commented Mar 7 at 17:19
  • More details needed. Is company X a "public figure"?
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 7 at 23:39
  • Also, isn't this sort of the prototypical libel case? Newspapers rarely come up with libel on their own; they much more frequently report allegations made by other people.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 8 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


See Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61 at para 119:

[119] The “repetition rule” holds that repeating a libel has the same legal consequences as originating it. This rule reflects the law’s concern that one should not be able to freely publish a scurrilous libel simply by purporting to attribute the allegation to someone else. The law will not protect a defendant who is “willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike”: “Truth” (N.Z.) Ltd. v. Holloway, [1960] 1 W.L.R. 997 (P.C.), at p. 1001, per Lord Denning. In sum, the repetition rule preserves the accountability of media and other reporting on matters of public interest. The “bald retailing of libels” is not in the public interest: Charman, at para. 91, per Sedley L.J. Maintaining the repetition rule is particularly important in the age of the Internet, when defamatory material can spread from one website to another at great speed.

[120] However, the repetition rule does not apply to fairly reported statements whose public interest lies in the fact that they were made rather than in their truth or falsity. This exception to the repetition rule is known as reportage. If a dispute is itself a matter of public interest and the allegations are fairly reported, the publisher should incur no liability even if some of the statements made may be defamatory and untrue, provided: (1) the report attributes the statement to a person, preferably identified, thereby avoiding total unaccountability; (2) the report indicates, expressly or implicitly, that its truth has not been verified; (3) the report sets out both sides of the dispute fairly; and (4) the report provides the context in which the statements were made. ...

  • FWIW, without doing a full analysis, U.S. law would generally be less prone to impose liability in these circumstances than Canadian law, even though, in most areas of the law, the two countries are quite similar.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 7 at 20:35
  • Also. as I understand US law, if the statements were made in a court proceeding, there would be a pretty much unfettered right to report them, so long as the statements were accurately reported. Commented Mar 8 at 2:19

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