Alex B. Long

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If there is a body of law that is ripe for reappraisal in light of changing times, it is defamation law. Changes in how news is reported and entertainment is produced have blurred some of the traditional legal rules regarding the distinction between actionable fact and non-actionable fiction. At the same time, advances in technology and changes in society have caused some – most notably Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Gorsuch – to question whether the traditional New York Times Co. v. Sullivan standard used in defamation cases should remain good law. In 2000, professional wrestling legend Hulk Hogan sued World Championship Wrestling after he was allegedly defamed in the ring by another performer during a broadcast in one of the most controversial incidents in the history of professional wrestling. The case raised some of the same issues that courts face today as they attempt to navigate a new landscape in which it is not always easy to distinguish real news from fake news and fact from opinion, parody, fiction, and hyperbole. This Essay explores the Hulk Hogan defamation litigation and how the decision illustrates some of the shortcomings of the courts’ approach to defamation cases involving publications that blur reality and fiction.

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