Ye recently claimed that Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose.
Last week, rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, appeared as a guest commentator of the podcast Drink Champs. During a conversation with the shows hosts, N.O.R.E and DJ EFN, Ye put forth the suggestion that George Floyd, the man who was killed after a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes, actually died from the use and overdose of the drug fentanyl.
Ye’s comments drew widespread ire, with the producers of Drink Champs pulling the episode and issuing a public apology. The ones most offended by his comments were Floyd’s own family who, after a brief deliberation, have decided to launch a lawsuit against Ye. The lawsuit targets Ye and his associates for “harassment, misappropriation, defamation and infliction of emotional distress seeking $250 million dollars in damages,” according to the lawsuit filed by Roxie Washington, mother of Floyd’s daughter.
“Kanye’s comments are a repugnant attempt to discount George Floyd’s life and to profit from his inhumane death,” said one of Washington’s attorneys, Pat D. Dixon III. “We will hold Mr. West accountable for his flagrant remarks against Mr. Floyd’s legacy.”
“Free Speech Rights do not include harassment, lies, misrepresentation, and the misappropriation of George Floyd’s legacy. Some words have consequences and Mr. West will be made to understand that,” added another attorney, Kay Harper Williams.
Analysts have noted that making the case a matter of free speech rights could be difficult. “First off, there is no possibility of a defamation action here, because there would be no living plaintiff whose reputation has been damaged,” Roy S. Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at the University of Syracuse, told NPR. “Libel and slander require a live plaintiff, and family members or surviving family members do not have standing to sue for defamation.”
“This requires the plaintiff to prove that the statements were intentional or reckless, outside the bounds of accepted decency and morality and causally-connected to some viable harm,” he added. “This tort is often a difficult claim to collect on, especially with a media defendant.”