The best lawsuits, from a blogger’s perspective, are the ridiculous ones. These are the ones that make you think, “what were they thinking when they filed this waste of a tree?” Despite the widespread belief that the court system is ridden with these frivolous lawsuits, the vast majority of lawsuits have some sort of merit. From some perspective, even a slanted perspective, there might possibly be a case.
We don’t see it here.
New Yorker Aviva Nash, the owner of Drum Cafe, filed a defamation lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Juliet Huddy, and their employer, Fox News two days ago, reports the Courthouse News Service. The defamation claims stem from “news” reports made on Fox News about a government agency’s waste of taxpayer money on Drum Cafe’s “team-building” exercises.
What were the defamatory statements?
- Huddy (a reporter) referred to Nash as a "hippy dippy chick" and referred to the drumming as a "21st century Kumbaya;"
- O'Reilly used the word "con;"
- Van Susteren used the words "stealing" and "insane."
A successful defamation suit requires false statements that are published and cause injury to the subject of the statements.
The most interesting claim revolves around Huddy's 'hippy' statement. No one who watches Fox News is going to think anything along the lines of, "well, because Huddy said it, Nash must be a hippie ... which of course entails liberal politics, free sex, and drug use. Damn hippies."
It's obviously an opinion, similar to someone saying Fox News is far from "Fair and Balanced" or Bill O'Reilly is a "pompous windbag." Winning a defamation claim based on an opinion statement is extremely difficult, but not impossible.
The problem is proving falsity of the statement. Nash is an intelligent business owner that makes money by holding "team-building exercises" in the form of large drum circles.
Drum circles ... sounds ... almost ... hippie-ish?
Is Nash a hippie? It certainly could be true. It could be false as well. That's the problem with opinions. They usually can't be proven true or false.
Let's look at the other statements. One really has to wonder if the attorney actually read the transcripts that he attached to the lawsuit. O'Reilly's "con" remark was a reference to the General Services Administration spending $270k on this conference in Washington D.C. a short time after spending $823k on a Las Vegas conference. Van Susteren was referring to "stealing" of taxpayers' money by the GSA and her opinion that it was "insane" for the GSA to spend taxpayer money on 4,000 pairs of drumsticks.
Were the statements published? Yes, they were made on air. Were they injurious to Nash? That's something that hasn't been addressed in court yet.
To summarize: Nash is suing because a reporter called her a "hippy dippy chick" and because two windbags disagreed with the GSA spending over a million dollars in taxpayer funds on trips to Vegas and drum circles.
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Blogger Brings Keith Olbermann Defamation Suit (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- NY Courts: 'Gay' is Okay, No Longer Defamatory (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Elements of Libel and Slander (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)