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Cardi B defamation case against YouTuber gets underway

By | Published on Wednesday 12 January 2022

Cardi B

As Cardi B’s defamation court battle against YouTuber Latasha Kebe got underway yesterday, a legal rep for the latter urged the jury to consider the context in which his client’s videos were presented and her humorous presentation style. But a lawyer repping Cardi B insisted that the things Kebe had said about her client were no laughing matter.

Cardi B – real name Belcalis Almanzar – sued Kebe back in March 2019 in relation to various videos the YouTuber posted to her unWinewithTashaK channel which, the rapper claims, included defamatory statements. Among other things, Kebe is accused of incorrectly stating that Almanzar “was a prostitute … was a user of cocaine … had and still has herpes … had and still has HPV … engaged in a debasing act with a beer bottle and … committed infidelity”.

With jury selection having been completed on Monday – and Cardi B fans filtered out of the pool of potential jurors – the defamation trial got properly underway yesterday.

With often forthright and sweary statements from Kebe’s videos crucial to the proceedings, her lawyer urged the jury to not be prejudiced against his client’s presentation style.

According to Law360, attorney Sadeer Sabbak told jurors: “I ask you not to make any judgment about what the plaintiff is alleging Ms Kebe said until you actually hear the videos and the context, because context is everything, especially in the media. Everyone is familiar with humour, everyone is familiar with opinion, and everyone needs context to appreciate that”.

However, Almanzar’s lawyer, Sarah M Matz, insisted that, even in context, humour is no excuse here. “Saying people have highly stigmatic diseases is not a joke”, she mused. “Ms Kebe knows that statements like this, if false, are defamatory, and if someone said those things about her, she would sue them”.

Aside from revisiting and reviewing the stack of lurid stories that were told about Almanzar on Kebe’s YouTube channel, this case could be interesting in that it puts the spotlight on how online creators and influencers are also, in essence, publishers and media owners. And are therefore subject to the same laws and responsibilities as corporate publishers and media owners.

Much attention will fall on an interview Kebe recorded and posted in 2018 with Starmarie Jones, who claimed to know Almanzar from when they both worked as strippers in New York. In that video – watched more than 4.5 million times – Jones repeats her previous claims that Almanzar worked as a prostitute, used drugs and had herpes, all within the first minute.

Almanzar’s lawyers argue that Kebe knew that the allegations being made by Jones were untrue. Not only that, they say, but in a recorded phone conversation between Kebe and another Cardi B acquaintance, the YouTuber admitted that she was “exploiting” Jones by recording and posting the interview, adding that there were concerns about her interviewee’s mental health.

But, despite knowing all that, Kebe posted the video anyway, because she knew it would drive significant traffic to her YouTube channel. She then ignored three cease-and-desist letters from the rapper – refusing to delete the video and apologise to Almanzar – and instead making light of the legal documents on her social media.

Kebe’s claims that she’s a blogger not a journalist – and bloggers don’t tend to fact check as a matter of course – and that her YouTube videos were simply “humorous opinion”, are not legitimate defences, Almanzar’s team insists. And, Matz added yesterday, “Ms Kebe’s conduct and that of her company is so extreme it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency”.

It remains to be seen quite how this trial proceeds, but it might result in YouTubers in general having to be a little more careful when publishing controversial celebrity gossip.