Dan Spinelli is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).
Libel, the publication of false statements defamatory to one’s character, is one of the most inscrutable areas of constitutional law. Laws surrounding libel and slander, the spoken form of libel, often provoke some of the judicial system’s most eccentric cases. This article will trace the developments in libel law over the past half-century by focusing on the landmark 1987 Supreme Court case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, and discuss a more recent controversy involving comedienne Sarah Silverman and rapper Eminem.
Hustler Magazine opened up the floodgates for defamation of public figures through a quite humorous case. After discovering his scandalous portrayal in the magazine, Reverend Jerry Falwell sued Hustler.  Falwell was a figurehead of the “moral majority” movement of the 1980’s that aligned the Republican Party with the Christian right. His notoriety made him an easy target for controversial publications like Hustler. In one issue, Hustler ran a parody feature discussing the “first times” of different celebrities, and depicted Falwell’s first time as a “drunken incestuous rendezvous with his mother in an outhouse.”  This evidently outrageous piece enraged Falwell, who sued Hustler for defamation of character.