"This case presents us with a novel question involving First Amendment limitations upon a state's authority to protect its citizens from the intentional infliction of emotional distress. We must decide whether a public figure may recover damages for emotional harm caused by the publication of an ad parody offensive to him and doubtless gross and repugnant in the eyes of most."

"{Falwell} would have us find that a state's interest in protecting public figures from emotional distress is sufficient to deny First Amendment protection to speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotion injury, even when that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved. This we decline to do."

"The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are 'intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large' . . . . "

"Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures as well as public officials will be subject to 'vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks.' "

"Were we to {rule in Falwell's favor,} there can be little doubt that political cartoonists and satirists would be subjected to damages awards without any showing that their work falsely defamed its subject . . . . The appeal of the political cartoon or caricature is often based on exploration of unfortunate physical traits or politically embarrassing events -- an exploration often calculated to injure the feelings of the subject of the portrayal. The art of the cartoonist is often not reasoned or evenhanded, but slashing and one-sided."

"Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate."