Truth to Power

From Ted Rall

Earlier this year I contemplated filing a lawsuit for slander and libel against columnist Ann Coulter in order to hold her accountable for her verbal and written statements to the effect that I had entered Iran’s contest for cartoons about (presumably denying/mocking) the Holocaust. These statements, though false, prompted people ignorant of Coulter’s long history of publishing lies to believe that I was anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I wanted the chance to set the record straight in court.

One needs to have two things on one’s side to win a lawsuit: money and the law. Toward the first end I reached out to readers outraged by Coulter’s malicious smears against me and others whose only crime is criticizing the Bush Administration. They–you–didn’t let me down. I obtained serious pledge commitments (I asked readers not to send the actual money until and unless I filed a suit) sufficient to make fighting a suit against a moneyed defendant like Coulter feasible.

Because I am opposed to burdening the legal system with vanity litigation, I decided that I would only sue if I had an excellent chance to win. Therefore I asked my attorneys to exhaustively research case precedents relative to slander and libel in New York State and under federal law. Months of research have forced me to conclude that, though a lawsuit against Coulter would certainly withstand initial challenges and motions to dismiss and might ultimately prevail through verdicts and subsequent appeals, the road ahead is too uncertain to justify spending thousands of dollars of pledges, not to mention my own money.

Unlike Bush, I don’t enter into battles I’m not certain of winning.

More than ever, I believe that Coulter’s attempts to assassinate my character are illegal as well a reprehensible. Unfortunately, she may have sufficiently muddied the waters with her toxic brand of commentary that she might be able to avoid a judgment against her by claiming First Amendment protection as a satirist. If Ann Coulter tells a joke, does anyone laugh? If not, is it a joke?

The interesting legal conundrum for Coulter is that she would have had to testify either that (a) she intended her audience to believe I had entered the Iranian cartoon contest or (b) it was just a joke. She couldn’t cop to (a) without getting smacked with a libel and/or slander judgment. If she claimed (b), however, she’d be admitting that she is not, as she presents herself on Fox and other TV networks, a serious political analyst, but rather a comedienne–or attempted one, anyway. It would have brought her ill-begotten career as a talking head, if not to a crashing halt, to a stall. So which is it, Ann? Are you a pundit or a comic? I regret that I’m not going to get to watch her figure that one out at a deposition.

So there’s not going to be a Rall v. Coulter–at least not now. Look at the bright side, though–she could still go down for possible vote fraud!

Thank you for your support and best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2007,


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