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Busch v. Viacom International

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Busch sued Viacom International after his image and likeness was used in a satirical endorsement that aired on The Daily Show.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant cannot be held liable for defamation if a reasonable viewer of a satire would not believe the broadcast to be fact.

    Facts.

    Stewart aired a fake endorsement of dietary shake promoted by Pat Robinson on The Daily Show. In the endorsement, a body builder named Busch thanked Robertson for helping him lose 200-pounds with the shake. Although Busch was never mentioned by name, he sued Stewart and Viacom International. When the claim was removed to district court, Stewart was granted a motion to dismiss the complaint.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant can be held liable for defamation if a reasonable viewer of a satire would not believe the broadcast to be fact?

    Held.

    No. Busch’s complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Busch failed to assert that Viacom made any false statements about him and a reasonable viewer would not have believed the advertisement to be an assertion of fact about Busch.

    Discussion.

    A defendant cannot be held liable for defamation if a reasonable viewer of a satire would not believe the broadcast to be fact. Defamation requires an assertion of fact to be reasonably believable. A plaintiff must claim that a defendant used their likeness in order to publicize a false statement to be believed by viewers. The plaintiff must also claim that the assertion of facts injured his reputation.


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