HIALEAH GARDENS, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion Tuesday to shine a spotlight on legacy media organizations that he said have wielded their power to defame private citizens. Panelists included attorneys with expertise in defamation as well as victims of media smears, including Covington Catholic graduate Nick Sandmann.
DeSantis is also asking Florida lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session to consider ways to provide Floridians with tools to protect themselves from media defamation.
Legacy media outlets have embraced the practice of laundering character attacks through the use of anonymous sources.
This allows these outlets to harm the reputations of the average citizen without affording the individual the ability to fight back. pic.twitter.com/Jx5D2qdNCk
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 7, 2023
“We’ve seen over the last generation legacy media outlets increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts,” DeSantis said, according to a February 7 press release.
“When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate recourses [sic] to fight back.”
RELATED: DeSantis unveils new legislation to ban woke indoctrination from universities
According to DeSantis, media corporations are likely “the leading purveyors of disinformation in our entire society right now. There needs to be an ability for people to defend themselves.”
“In Florida, we want to stand up for the little guy against these massive media conglomerates,” the governor said.
Panelists in the Hialeah Gardens roundtable discussion included legal experts and people victimized by legacy media defamation.
Among those victims was Nick Sandmann, the MAGA hat-wearing pro-life Catholic who was subjected to mainstream media mudslinging over a misrepresented altercation at the Washington, D.C. March for Life.
Sandmann was just a 16-year-old student at Covington Catholic High School when he became the target of left-wing vitriol after a clip went viral of his interaction with Native American activist Nathan Phillips at the 2019 March for Life.
Clips from Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s nightly news show that were played during the Tuesday roundtable highlighted the response from media figures who attacked Sandmann and his classmates as “racist” and even suggested that violence should be visited upon them.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that Sandmann filed defamation lawsuits against eight media outlets. He settled his suits against CNN and The Washington Post in 2020 and settled with NBC in December 2021.
During the Tuesday roundtable discussion, Sandmann said that the media firestorm that broke out in connection to the viral video “was the most difficult period of my life.”
“In my case, I didn’t have any reputation to ruin. I didn’t have any kind of career,” the 20-year-old said, arguing that media outlets “predetermined what the rest of my future was going to look like” after rushing to judgment in response to “a 60-second clip from Twitter.”
RELATED: Covington teen Nick Sandmann bags CNN settlement in $250 million lawsuit
Other panelists included attorneys Libby Locke and Vel Freedman, both of whom are representing clients in defamation lawsuits against CNN. Locke’s and Freeman’s clients both argue that their reputations and careers were severely crippled by CNN’s reporting.
Carson Holloway, Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life, told the panel that one of the problems facing Americans is that the U.S. Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan made it too difficult for private citizens to hold media companies to account.
“If we go back to the Founders, we are reminded that people have a right to their reputation,” he said, arguing that the “malice standard” currently in effect “is an invention of the Supreme Court” and is “inconsistent with the way the Founders thought about libel and freedom of speech.”
He said the “impunity” for media members by the ruling ought to be “revisited,” potentially through another Supreme Court ruling.
DeSantis’ roundtable discussion comes just a few months ahead of the next legislative session for the Sunshine State’s GOP-controlled legislature. DeSantis has urged lawmakers to enact safeguards to better equip Americans to guard themselves against attacks from corporate media outlets.
While it’s unclear to date what other types of legislation will emerge from the upcoming session that kicks off in April, DeSantis has also encouraged legislators to draft strong bills to protect the unborn and relax restrictions on Floridians’ Second Amendment rights.