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Story | Apr 9, 2009Before the American Revolution, a plaintiff could successfully sue a writer for libel even when the offensive statement was demonstrably true. Then, starting with the famous Zenger case in 1735 and culminating with the New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling by the Supreme Court in 1964, American law cemented our tradition of open expression of ideas. In order to win a libel case in this country, a public figure must show not only that the critical statement is false but that the writer knew it to be false or wrote it with a reckless disregard for the truth.