'Personal Note:' Joe Scarborough Makes Dominion vs. Fox Case All About Himself

April 19th, 2023 12:42 PM

Mika Brzezinski Joe Scarborough MSNBC Morning Joe 4-19-23Joe Scarborough is notorious for dragging his background as a former Congressman into the Morning Joe conversation at every opportunity. So much so, that his self-centered obsession has become something of a running joke on the show. 

In a variation on his solipsism, Scarborough turned much of Morning Joe's discussion today of the settlement of Dominion's defamation case against Fox News into yet another chance to air his grievance against Donald Trump for having suggested that Scarborough could be responsible for the death of a former congressional aide of his.

As MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos was seeking to explain why Fox News chose to settle under the circumstances, Scarborough interrupted on what he called a "personal note."

Scarborough didn't name any of the people he has wanted to sue. But by far the most famous of them, and someone whom Scarborough has frequently mentioned in such connection, is Donald Trump.

Trump did indeed author a number of tweets suggesting Scarborough's responsibility for the death of that aide, Lori Klausutis, even speaking of "murder" on more than one occasion.

Scarborough claimed he went to someone reputed to be the best defamation lawyer in America, but again was advised not to sue, given the difficulty of proving actual malice.


Perhaps Scarborough's account is accurate. But could it also be that the various lawyers informed Scarborough that he'd be subjected to intense cross-examination about his personal lifein particular, the circumstances that led to his sudden resignation from Congress. 

Scarborough announced his intention to resign in May, 2001, reportedly following weeks of "personal soul-searching," saying "he's frustrated with Washington politics, is hampered by chronic back pain, and wants to spend more time with his sons, ages 10 and 13."

Ironically, Scarborough's potential ally in making a defamation suit against Trump more feasible would be none other than . . . Clarence Thomas. Thomas, along with fellow Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, wants to reconsider the Court's ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, requiring that public figures [of which Scarborough would be considered one] must prove "actual malice" in order to prevail in a defamation suit. 

Joe Scarborough, on a "personal note," making about himself much of a segment about the settlement between Dominion and Fox News, was sponsored in part by Consumer Cellular, Amazon, Allstate, Chase, and Visa.

Here's the transcript.

Morning Joe
6:05 am EDT

JOE SCARBOROUGH: By the way, this is one of the hardest cases, civil cases, to prove. This is, this -- Can you underline really quickly, this is a personal note for me. For 20 years, I've called different lawyers. I said,this person is accusing me of being a murderer. That person -- and Mika's been there for a lot of it. I want to sue him.

Oh,no, it's -- what do you mean. Wait, I can't sue them?! They go, you gotta prove actual malice. I say, well they're, it's obvious, they know I didn't. Oh, but you don't know what's in their [points to his head.] 

So, I've learned, unfortunately, the hard way over 20 years: defamation almost impossible to prove. And yet, Fox, what they did after the election, so egregious, that this was a slam dunk

In a type of case, I just want to underline for everbody at home: it's almost impossible -- I found out the hard way -- to take to court and win.

. . . 

DANNY CEVALLOS: I'll tell you what, Joe. Because you didn't call me about these, about these defamation cases. 


CEVALLOS: I would have told you, Joe, most lawyers try to dissuade people taking on defamation cases.

SCARBOROUGH: All lawyers.

CEVALLOS: They really do. And I'll give you the inside. They usually do that because,lawyers don't want to take on the risk of having to pay. In a contingency arrangement, where they have to front the cost. They don't want to have to pay to try and prove a defamation case. Because the risk is too high. They like the sure thing. 

And so I'm not surprised. Most lawyers end up dissuading people from bringing defamation cases.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, I would, I would call people and say, who's the best defamation lawyer in America? 

I called the best defamation lawyer in America, who won these big cases.Oh, no, it's too hard to.

I'm like: that's what you do! you're a defamation lawyer, dude! Why don't you do it like slip and falls?!

CEVALLOS: Because they're waiting for the perfect case.

SCARBOROUGH: They're waiting for this case.

CEVALLOS: And this is that perfect, that everyone's been waiting for.

SCARBOROUGH: This was, for lawyers, the perfect defamation case.