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Both American and Israeli politics, and of course those of other democracies, can include a lot of personal attacks, both true and untrue, including innuendo about possible adultery, gay or straight, inappropriate behavior privately and/or publicly, influence-peddling, or even speculation as to whether they are "really frum" or just "pretending to be frum."

To what extent can religious Jews listen to, discuss, or repeat loshon hara about Jewish political candidates or incumbent politicians? Does it also apply to non-Jewish public figures as well? Is a person's character ever on the table as a legitimate discussion point when our only source must be second-hand?

If no right exists for a layperson, is there a halachic basis that would give a Rav or Rosh HaYeshiva an exceptional right -- in their roles as community leaders -- to say loshon hara about political candidates when it is in their community's interest?

My observation is that rabbis have asserted such a right (even when they later admitted that they had no first-hand knowledge of the truth of the charges, nor had made any investigation), but I can't find any authority that gives it to them.

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Duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/17617? – msh210 Feb 18 '13 at 18:38
@msh210: I think that question is specific only to Mi.Yodeya – Gershon Gold Feb 18 '13 at 18:54
I usually take it that when Rabbis say things like this they only do it because they feel like that by showing the other persons faults they will win the election therefor making sure they win (because if they don't win it could be an issue of army drafting etc.). – Hacham Gabriel Feb 20 '13 at 3:04
it is very difficult to be involved in politics and be a pious individual. – Dude Oct 20 '14 at 15:17
Is this question meant to specifically ask about exposing information gained through second-hand knowledge? – Matt Nov 19 '14 at 19:14

If the information is related before three people, then it is considered publicly known, and should one of the three repeat it, he is not guilty of lashon hara , as long as his intent was not to spread it as much as possible. (Rambam, Hilchos Deos 7:5)

Therefore, one may repeat anything heard from a public news source, and it is not considered lashon hara.

Personally, I prefer to qualify my remarks with "XYZ news said that..." , to make it clear that I have no firsthand knowledge of the public figure's alleged misdeeds, and I am only sharing what is already being publicly reported.

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