Larry and Jerry Part II

3/15/1983 President Reagan Meeting with Jerry Falwell in Oval Office

Multiple-Choice Questions.

To assess your knowledge and skills in government and politics, answer these sample multiple-choice questions. Here are some questions on the scenario or text-based questions regarding the court and free press. It is a passage from the Supreme Court’s opinion regarding a libel lawsuit filed by Jerry Falwell, a television evangelist and religious leader, against Larry Flynt, a publisher of a filthy pornographic magazine.  Flynt had published an over-the-top parody insulting Flynt. The correct answers will appear below the questions after a brief delay.


This case presents us with a novel question involving First Amendment limitations upon a State’s authority to protect its citizens from the intentional infliction of emotional distress. We must decide whether a public figure [Rev. Jerry Falwell] may recover damages for emotional harm caused by the publication [in Hustler magazine] of an ad parody offensive to him, and doubtless gross and repugnant in the eyes of most. Respondent [Falwell] would have us find that a State’s interest in protecting public figures from emotional distress is sufficient to deny First Amendment protection to speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury, even when that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved. This we decline to do. . . . We think the First Amendment prohibits such a result in the area of public debate about public figures.Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Jerry Falwell, 1986


1. Based on the Court’s opinion, which of the following would the authors agree with?

(A) Opinions and insults are not needed in public discourse.

(B) The First Amendment protects the press when lying about others.

(C) Government should not deny free speech rights, especially when critical of public figures.

(D) When speech is gross and repugnant to an obvious majority, then government can punish or suppress it.


2. Which of the following ideological perspectives parallels this passage?

(A) If speech or an expression of ideas hurts someone, government should prevent it.

(B) We cannot chill the First Amendment as this will limit a free flow of ideas.

(C) A state or local government should be able to define what is lewd and offensive.

(D) If a jury can punish individuals and the press for this kind of smut, people and publications would be nicer.


And the answers are . . . 
C and B
What unique vocabulary terms did you see that you were not familiar with? How might knowing these terms help you answer the question?


Photo/Image: White House photo, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library