A fair comment is a privilege that allows the media to publish opinions about public officials and public figures without fear of a libel suit. It also allows the general public to share their opinions about these individuals. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that there is an exception when the person making the statement knows at the time of the statement, that the information is false or when the person has a reckless disregard for whether the statement may be true or false. The public figure has the burden of proving that the person making the statement did so maliciously.
If the person making the statement has an honest belief in the truth of the information, they can use fair comment as a defense in a libel suit, even if the information is ultimately proven to be false.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]