Did James Woods incorrectly accuse someone of being a Nazi and get away with it? James Woods was able to defeat a defamation lawsuit after incorrectly calling someone a Nazi on Twitter by just putting a question mark at the end of his hateful tweet.
James Woods has gone from actor into a voice of the Conservative party. Such is his right but what is not the right is to make false allegations about people that hurts their reputation. Someone on Twitter posted a photo of a woman caught giving a “Heil Hitler” salute at a Trump rally during the Presidential campaign of 2016 and mistakenly identified the woman as Portia Boulger, a volunteer and convention delegate of Bernie Sanders. This person wasn’t Portia Boulger but this didn’t stop Woods who retweeted the photo saying “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?” Woods’s tweet got some 5,000 retweets including one by Donald Trump, Jr. Despite knowing the tweet was a mistake, Woods left it up for some time and Boulger received death threats and a ton of hate because of it.
A lawsuit in Ohio Federal Court was filed by Boulger for defamation over the false allegation. In his motion to dismiss the case, Woods claims that his tweet does not constitute a false statement of fact because it merely asks a question that invites his readers to reach their own conclusions. The Court provided a lengthy analysis and ultimately held that the totality of the circumstances dictate that at least some reasonable readers of Woods’s tweet would interpret it as a question and not a statement of fact.Therefore, under Ohio’s innocent construction rule, Woods’s tweet is protected by the Ohio Constitution and is not actionable. The case was therefore dismissed thanks to the question mark.
So does this give people the right to make any accusation they want and be saved my a question mark? Hardly. The consequences for such actions are dire, including the fact that Woods needed to hire and pay for a legal team to defend this case. So before you go and make false statement and think you will be saved by a question mark, think twice.