Don't Blame The Messenger: Political News Site Faces Defamation Lawsuit By G.O.P. Official

Just because the election is over, it doesn't mean that some of this season's political fights won't continue on in the courts.  Here's one from our legal threats database, Carabelli v. The Michigan Messenger.

James Carabelli, chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, sued The Michigan Messenger, a news site owned by the Center for Independent Media, for defamation in Michigan state court in October 2008.  The lawsuit revolves around a September 10, 2008 article entitled "Lose your house, lose your vote," which discussed alleged plans on the part of Republican officials in Michigan to challenge voters based on lists of home foreclosures.

The article, written by Messenger staff reporter Eartha Jane Melzer, attributed the following quote to Carabelli: "We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses." Carabelli denies having made this statement and the existence of any such plans.  The article drew national attention and spurred a lawsuit by the Obama campaign against the Michigan Republican Party, which subsequently settled.

The Michigan Messenger stands behind the accuracy of the quotation.  After the suit was filed, editor Jefferson Morely told the First Amendment Center

We've reviewed Eartha's phone records and e-mails to recreate what Eartha reported and how she did it. . . .  This review of the record leaves no doubt that the conversation with Mr. Carabelli took place, that the question of voter challenges was discussed, that Mr. Carabelli said what he said, that Eartha reported those comments immediately and accurately to her editors, and then to readers.

Doug Preisse, an Ohio G.O.P. official, also challenged the accuracy of remarks attributed to him in Melzer's article. The website issued a clarification regarding Preisse's comments on September 19.

We'll be sure to monitor the progress of this one in the legal threats database.  If readers have more information about the case or copies of the underlying court documents, please let us know in the comments or contact us directly


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