Political Defamation: Two Case Studies
Free speech standards prevent a lot of political defamation cases from taking off. That said, they still happen. In fact, two such lawsuits recently hit U.S. headlines. One resulted in a closed door settlement, and the other is just beginning.
Political Defamation of Character Case #1: Blogger Makes Deal with Washington, DC Publicist
FishbowlDC is the TMZ of Capitol Hill. A company under the WebMediaBrands umbrella, FishbowlDC is a pundit site with its favorites and foes; publicist Wendy Gordon fell into the latter group.
Things became legally contentious when FishbowlDC created a weekly column called “Wendy Wednesday.” Gordon says the site used the column to spread “false and humiliating descriptions” of her and her PR tactics. Gordon described it as an “unprovoked, online smear campaign.” So, she filed a defamation lawsuit against WebMediaBrands.
Welp, the case never made it to a jury. As is wont to happen in DC, the parties struck a behind-closed-doors deal. Gordon filed a dismissal notice at DC Superior Court a few days later. That’s what you call using a lawsuit to get your adversaries’ attention. Apparently, it worked in this case.
Political Defamation of Character Case #2: Long Island Lawyer Screams Libel Over Campaign Marketing Piece
A defamation showdown involving a Nassau County legislator and his campaign rival is revving up on Long Island. Lisa Daniels, a lawyer with political aspirations, sued Howard Kopel, incumbent representative of the 7th Legislative District, for defamation.
Political Mailer Results In Libel Lawsuit
Daniels, who ran against Kopel in a recent election, is suing her opponent over a political mailer. She’s asking for a cool $100 million.
What slight of political warfare could be worth $100 million? Well, Daniels is irate over accusations that she displayed “poor judgment” as counsel in a contentious child custody case. Daniels had become personally involved in the case and temporarily became the child’s guardian. Tragically, after litigation ended, the young boy died after falling out of a bunk-bed.
In her lawsuit, Daniels’ argues that the mailer unfairly draws a parallel between her and the boy’s death.
Kopel Swears He Didn’t Engage in Any Political Defamation
Kopel insists he had nothing to do with the political mailer, but he does concede that the race with Daniels “turned very, very nasty.” He didn’t indicate, however, if any PACs paid for the marketing piece.
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