It turns out that making statements in good faith about public events is protected free speech in America. Who knew?
Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro just won his final legal battle against Ahmed Mohamed, aka “Clock Boy,” after the Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas refused to hear a case attempting to reverse a lower court ruling in favor of Shapiro. The decision stands as a victory for free speech and a free press, as Mohamed and his father sought to punish Shapiro and other journalists for using facts to speculate that the boy’s father intentionally precipitated a controversy to gain national attention.
So much for the Clock Boy case – we just destroyed them again on appeal! Well done, @KurtSchlichter!
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 11, 2018
The case originated on September 14, 2015, when Mohamed — then a 13-year-old freshman — brought a homemade clock to school and showed it to his teacher. The device was encased inside a briefcase and looked eerily similar to an improvised bomb.
After Mohamed’s teacher contacted a school resource officer, the boy was later escorted out of class and arrested for bringing a “hoax bomb” to school. The Irving Police Department dropped the charges just two days later, although his school upheld a three-day suspension.
Not content to move past the incident, the boy’s father, Mohamed Mohamed, immediately took his son’s story to the liberal mainstream media, eliciting a predictable response. The teenager was soon making his rounds on shows like “Good Morning America,” “Ellen,” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
The narrative was the same on every program: Mohamed was the victim of Islamophobia from a cruel school district in Texas town known for harboring animus against Muslims. Mohamed’s father appeared in press conferences with the terror-tied Council on American-Islamic Relations demanding justice and noting that his son’s persecution was “symptomatic of growing Islamophobia in American society.”
While President Barack Obama was inviting young Mohamed to the White House, and celebrity liberals like Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg were issuing statements in support of the Clock Boy, others smelled a “setup.” Shapiro appeared on Fox News’s “The Kelly File” to question the motives behind the controversy, calling the event a “hoax” and arguing that the elder Mohamed sent his son to school with the suspicious device knowing that this would cause trouble for his son.
Shapiro said that the entire situation was “a hoax, this was a setup and President Obama fell for it because it confirms a couple of his pre-stated biases against police and against people who he perceives to be Islamophobic.” Shapiro argued that Obama was “constantly shooting first and asking questions later” with regard to the police, adding that “the story didn’t hold water from the beginning.
“Within the first forty-eight hours it was clear that this was a bit of a set-up and it was clear that the story didn’t hold together.” Shapiro theorized that Mohamed “took the guts out of an old clock, you can see people do it on YouTube. He literally took the guts out of an old clock, the wiring, and he put it inside of a pencil box and proceeded to bring that into the school,” Shapiro surmised.
“And this is not the first family incident that has been like this. His sister had an incident in 2009 that was somewhat similar,” Shapiro said, referring to a similar bomb scare where Mohamed’s sister was suspended from the same school.
Shapiro wasn’t alone, either. The Blaze’s Glenn Beck, Center for Security Policy Executive Vice President Jim Hanson, and radio host Ben Ferguson all made similar accusations on various broadcast around the same time. Mr. Mohamed sued them all.
Fortunately, the courts were not receptive to Mohamed’s claims. Shapiro filed a motion arguing that the case should be dismissed because his televised statements were “non-actionable opinions.” The Mohamed family would have to prove that Shapiro et al. had actual malice when they argued that the Clock Boy controversy was a hoax.
No malice, no crime
Mohamed’s suit never stood a chance, mainly because he would have to prove that Shapiro was knowingly using false information to defame the Sudanese immigrants. Shapiro asserted that he made his statements “without actual malice and without knowledge that they are in whole or in part untrue. In fact, I stand by my statements, having believed them to be true at the time I made them, and I continue to believe them to be true today.”
In fact, Shapiro had many reasons for believing that Mr. Mohamed intentionally precipitated his son’s suspension. As a Sudanese citizen, Mohamed was running for president of the African nation and admitted that public attention would help his campaign.
Likewise, Ahmed Mohamed was told that he could win scholarships and public appointments from his “more than fifteen minutes of fame.” CAIR officials worked with the boy to maximize his exposure and build influence.
In the end, the district court ruled on the side of free speech. Journalists are allowed to speculate based upon the facts, and to take away this right would create a dangerous precedent for Americans.