The first episode of season 6 will air on January 19, 2017, which is midseason. Last season, was probably one of my favorites because of the freakish similarities it had with the actual election.
The candidates last season were billionaire businessman Hollis Doyle, who was a Trump-like character, and Mellie Grant, who used to be First lady of the United States. The show even went as far as to name an episode “Trump Card,” during which the character Hollis Doyle had to withdraw from the race after being outed to the public for his less than presidential comments about the American people. It was great watching the show and the drama on the TV, but watching it unfold in real life was quite different.
What comes to mind after that season was whether or not the show would be liable for libel in fiction. Let’s assume Trump wants to sue the creators of Scandal, what would he have to prove? In order to sue for defamation, a plaintiff would have to show publication, defamatory meaning, false statement, identification, and damages. The most difficult part of this kind of claim would be to show the identification element. I think in Scandal, the character of Hollis Doyle resembles Donald Trump, however there are enough distinctions to make it almost impossible to show that there was defamation. Furthermore, Trump would have to show damages, and while I am sure there are some damages that he could show, he ultimately ended up winning the presidency, so I am not sure how big of an effect the show had on him.
While libel in fiction suits are rare due to the burden on the plaintiff to meet all of the elements in a defamation claim, they do make for interesting cases. One of the more memorable cases is Batra v. Wolf, in which a lawyer sued Law and Order for the same type of defamation. In that case, the judge allowed the case to move forward because the plaintiff presented compelling evidence about the similarities to the fictional character.
I for one am excited for Scandal to come back and cannot wait to see what drama unfolds this season.
Read more about libel in fiction below: