Jimmy Carter and Simon & Schuster, the publisher of his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, have been sued on the theory that it was consumer deception to promote the book as a strictly factual account of the protracted conflict in the region. Stories here and here. A copy of the complaint is here. The suit is brought as a class action onbehalf of all purchasers of the book and seeks damages. The complaint recites a long litany of alleged factual inaccuracies.
This is not a situation like A Million Little Pieces, in which a book represented to be a memoir turned out to contain substantial portions that were fiction. I am no expert on New York's consumer deception law, but even if the suit states a claim that can be proven under that law or the other common law theories invoked in the complaint, I think the free speech guarantee precludes any liability. The closest analog is the constitutional law of defamation. Absent actual knowledge of the false statement of fact made about a public figure, or reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the statement, the First Amendment protects such falsity. Here, the statements made to promote the book are of public concern and, at the very least, the plaintiffs should have to prove that they were deliberately false or made with reckless disregard. Indeed, I think that the burden on the plaintiffs should be even higher, as it seems to me that this suit is all about chilling speech. Promotion of a book on a topic of high public interest by a key public figure should be insulated from attack unless there is proof that the statements were made with knowledge of their falsity.