Gloria Allred isn’t going to be satisfied until Rush Limbaugh is drawn and quartered in the public square. The celebrity attorney who helped bring Herman Cain’s campaign to a screeching halt now has her sights set on the radio talk-show host over the words he used with regard to Sandra Fluke. I’m still waiting for her to produce the sworn statements she promised back during the Herman Cain smears, and while she takes up this new war, I am still curious what happened to the last one. It seems to have fizzled, and like so many things in which Allred is involved, there is a big press roll-out and maybe a further press conference or two, but we never seem to learn anything substantial about the claims or the claimants she brings to the press. In this case, somebody has tipped her to an ancient Florida statute providing for the prosecution of those who make statements about women under certain criteria. She is touting this old law as a weapon she will try to use against Limbaugh.
The Florida statute in question is a law on defamation and it reaches back to an earlier era:
836.04 Defamation.—Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. History.—s. 1, ch. 3460, 1883; RS 2419; GS 3260; RGS 5091; CGL 7193; s. 990, ch. 71-136.
Right from the start, assuming this law is applicable in this case, the standard set forth requires falsehood and malice. This would be a difficult standard, because it would require that the prosecution demonstrate that what Limbaugh had said was false, and that he did so with malice. Just as when Steny Hoyer(D-MD,) suggested that Fluke ought to sue Limbaugh, Levin noted the fact that it would require discovery that would likely be difficult for her to endure.
As a criminal matter, the state would be in the unenviable position of having to demonstrate Ms. Fluke had been chaste in order to show the falsehood. A “chastity” is a pretty severe standard when measuring the meaning of that word. The word has but one meaning, so it would be difficult to rule in any way but one if in fact Ms. Fluke isn’t chaste. This could have the added effect of demonstrating publicly that Limbaugh had been right all along, and the court would risk possibly being forced to rule or observe that Ms. Fluke isn’t chaste. When you add in the difficulty in showing Malice on Limbaugh’s part, this could prove more problematic for Fluke than for Limbaugh.
I suspect that like in so many other cases, Allred may not be worried about the effects on her intended client, but merely her ability to make a media splash. It wouldn’t be the first time Allred caused a client more harm than good.