If I had an inordinate amount of money and a tabloid tried to arbitrarily assert that I abandoned my child, you better believe I’d spend that disposable cash on taking them down. Such is the case with Tom Cruise, who sued Life & Style and In Touch Magazine for defamation regarding their horrific headlines that he abandoned his daughter after his divorce from Katie Holmes.
Defamation is complicated. And without reiterating my first year of law school, I’ll lay it out in a nutshell for my interested readers. Here goes: You cannot say something false if it lowers the reputation of the subject. And if your subject is famous, the test is even more strict, and you must prove that the defamer engaged in “actual malice.” So what is actual malice? In short, the person who published the false statement must have knowledge that his statement is false or act in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. For example, if I publish an article saying an A-list celebrity beat his children and I had a great source for that information, it is not defamation. I reasonably believed my source, and that belief was not reckless.
Because Tom Cruise is quite clearly a public figure, he has an uphill battle. He has to prove that the tabloids in question knew he did not abandon his daughter when they published their headline. And if he can’t prove that they knew, he has to prove that they acted in reckless disregard of the statement’s truth or falsity. That’s a difficult standard, and given that his current deposition suggests he only saw his daughter for 10 out of 110 days, it’s entirely possible that he’ll lose. Why? It might be a reasonable assumption that his absence equates to “abandonment.” As I said, “actual malice” is a near impossible standard to prove.
Despite Tom Cruise’s difficult burden of proof, I’m elated that he’s engaging in this. Tabloids are bottom-feeding maggots, and they can certainly survive with more positive stories, yet they choose the opposite. And if that’s not enough of an objection, they publish paparazzi pictures of children, which is unconscionable.
Good luck, Tom. I’m rooting for you.