Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (1988) Definition

A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court decided that the First Amendment free speech guarantee protects a speaker who publishes a parody of a public figure, as long as the speech doesn't violate the First Amendment's actual malice standard.

Falwell sued Hustler Magazine for defamation and for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) over an ad parody the magazine published. At trial, the jury found for Falwell on the IIED claim, and the court of appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the First Amendment's actual malice standard for public figures—not the IIED "outrageous conduct" standard—applied. Because no reasonable person could have understood Hustler's parody to state actual facts about Falwell, the First Amendment protected Hustler's speech and the IIED claim failed.