Former President Donald Trump and Logan Cook, a supportive meme creator who goes by the name Carpe Donktum, won a major legal battle at the New York Supreme Court on Friday after justices tossed a lawsuit that accused the two of negligently and illegally misusing a video of a black toddler who hugged a white toddler.
The video initially showed the two toddler boys hugging before both then turned to run down a New York City sidewalk. But Cook’s meme video featured only the part where the boys were running, with a phony CNN chyron that said, “TERRIFIED TODLER (sic) RUNS FROM RACIST BABY.”
The point of the meme at the time was to ridicule the media and play off the former president’s frequent claims that they are “fake news.” Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter took down the meme video; Twitter went on to ban Cook permanently, claiming serial violations of the platform’s use policies.
News reports at the time took Trump to task for retweeting the video.
Then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany explained that Trump was attempting to draw attention to CNN in particular, which he believed was among the leading outlets that frequently took him out of context or published outright false information.
Cook frequently posted pro-Trump materials, and the former president frequently shared them. When Cook visited the White House in 2019, Trump praised him as a “genius.”
Cook’s video began with the fake CNN headline, then faded to black showing the words, “What Really Happened,” going on to show the two toddlers’ embrace. The video fades to black again with the caption, “AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM . . . FAKE NEWS IS. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES,” according to the lawsuit.
The parents of the toddlers vowed to sue after the video went viral.
“The fact that Twitter and Facebook disabled this fake video within 24 hours of President Trump and his campaign tweeting it, coupled with Twitter permanently banning Cook, is very strong evidence that a jury will likely find that all of these people broke the law by using this video as advertisement and political propaganda,” said Ven Johnson, one of the parents’ attorneys, at the time.
But on Friday, the New York Supreme Court tossed the lawsuit, with justices noting in their ruling that the initial video was “newsworthy” and thus broadly protected speech under the First Amendment. Furthermore, the justices ruled that the video was clearly satire and that there were elements of truth interwoven into the production.
“…[T]he video not only contained the portion altered by Cook, but also the original footage of [plaintiffs’ toddlers] accompanied by a graphic reading ‘what actually happened,'” the court noted. “Thus, any reasonable person watching the video knew, or should have known, that at least a portion of its contents was not real.
“Since the video is therefore a satire, albeit one which some may consider to be rather distasteful, this Court is constrained to find that it is not actionable” under current statutes and U.S. Supreme Court precedence, the ruling continued.
The New York high court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims the video was intentionally designed to inflict emotional distress, that it was used for illegal commercial purposes, and that Cook and Trump were negligent in their actions of creating and retweeted, respectively, the video.
Conservative attorney Harmeet Dhillon took to Twitter to hail the ruling and to praise law partner Ron Coleman, who defended Cook.
“Congratulations to my @dhillonlaw partner @RonColeman for defeating the lawsuit brought against client Logan Cook aka Carpe Donktum and 45 over the infamous toddler video, commentary upon which is a matter of public interest! Congrats to President Trump as well! #FirstAmendment,” she wrote.
Free Carpe Donktum! pic.twitter.com/fT4M9ccYi6
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) July 9, 2021
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