Adding Derogatory Caption to Photo Meme Can Be False Light–S.E. v. Chmerkovskiy

7 02 2017

S.E. has Down Syndrome. The complaint alleges that in 2008, S.E. attended a baseball game (at the age of 8) in Nashville and was photographed standing outside the stadium near a concession stand. The photographer posted the photo to his Twitter account with the caption “everything that’s wrong with America.” The photo became a meme. In 2014, it was posted to CBS News’ website. A few years later (in 2016), Valentin Chmerkovisky (the “Dancing with the Stars” pro) posted the meme to his Facebook page with the following caption:

Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.

The photo has been viewed by many of Chmerkovskiy’s “quarter million” followers on Facebook. Chmerkovskiy later posted the following statement:

I’m truly sorry for the lack of sensitivity . . . but one some level I have to agree . . . You’re handicapping your kid, and they’re defenseless. They don’t know better, that’s why you’re there . . . anyway I’m just a childless preacher, but here’s some food for thought. #nopunintended.

While unclear, it appears he posted this statement after S.E.’s mom complained to him and asked him to take down the photo.

Case citation: SE v. Chmerkovskiy, 2016 US Dist LEXIS 159471 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 17, 2016)



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