Jewish Journal


February 6, 2012

Defamatory to associate Romney with Sikh temple?



Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Photo by Wikipedia/Julijan Nyča

Last month, Jay Leno showed a slide of Mitt Romney’s “summer home.” In fact, it was Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, a shrine of the Sikh faith. And now Leno and NBC are being sued over it.

From Reuters and TheWrap:

Dr. Randeep Dhillon, who does business as Bol Punjabi All Regions Community Organization, claims that Leno “hurt the sentiments of all Sikh people in addition to those of the plaintiff” with his joke. Dhillon further claims that Leno’s joke “clearly exposes plaintiff, other sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh.”

Was the joke false? Obviously. Was it funny? Maybe. But was it libel? I can’t possibly imagine how.

Libel pertains to false statements of fact. Parody doesn’t count. Just ask Jerry Falwell. (Well ... you can’t actually.) Did anybody seriously believe that the above image was of Romney’s summer home?

The lawsuit also raises interesting questions about whether Dhillon and other Sikhs think that it’s defamatory to be associated with Mitt Romney. I know that Romney appears to have the GOP nomination in hand, but can he really win the White House without the Sikh vote?

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