Examples of Public and Private Figures

Review this list of examples to help understand the difference between public figures/officials, limited-purpose public figures, and private figures for purposes of defamation law.

Name Type
Town Mayor

 

Public Official (A mayor is an elected official and therefore is a public official for purposes of defamation law.)

 

George W. Bush

 

Public Official (The President of the United States is an elected official and therefore is a public official for purposes of defamation law.)

 

Laura Bush

 

Public Figure (The President’s wife is a person who has pervasive power and influence in society and is therefore a public figure for purposes of defamation law.)

 

Paris Hilton

 

Public Figure (Well-known celebrities have pervasive power and influence in society and are therefore public figures for purposes of defamation law.)

 

Bill Gates

 

Public Figure (As the head of a major corporation and one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates is a public figure for purposes of defamation law.)

 

Roger Clemens

 

Public Figure or Limited-Purpose Public Figure (Roger Clemens is a well-known athlete and likely to be considered a public figure; at a minimum, he would be a limited-purpose public figure as to issues involving sports.)

 

Local expert on teen suicide

 

Limited-Purpose Public Figure (The expert would be a limited-purpose public figure because she has distinguished herself in this particular field.)

 

Church pastor who decries abortion

 

Limited-Purpose Public Figure (The pastor would be a limited-purpose public figure because he thrust himself to the forefront of a particular controversy in order to influence the resolution of the issue.)

 

Local grocery store manager

 

Private Figure (Individuals who do not qualify as public officials/figures or limited-purpose public figures are private figures.)

 

Your shy neighbor

 

Private figure (Individuals who do not qualify as public officials/figures or limited-purpose public figures are private figures.)

 

Last updated on July 22nd, 2008

   
 
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