Claiming that her criticism of Bradlee Dean consisted of "classic opinion and rhetorical hyperbole," MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow is seeking dismissal of a $50 million defamation lawsuit filed by Dean last year.
Dean, a Christian ministry founder, online radio host and rock drummer, alleged in his lawsuit that Maddow defamed him by falsely claiming he wants gays to be executed. (video and audio clips after page break)
Maddow has criticized Dean twice on her show over the last two years, on Aug. 9, 2010 and May 11, 2011 (as can be seen in the embedded video and described in a NewsBusters post last July). Maddow quoted Dean as saying this --
Muslims are calling for the execution of homosexuals in America. ... they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination. If America won't enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. That's what you're seeing today in America.
Typical of Maddow, her slice-and-dice editing of Dean's commentary left out those remarks which don't dovetail with her attempt to depict him as homicidally anti-gay. Here is the broader context of Dean's remarks with a caller to his radio show May 15, 2010 (audio) --
DEAN: As a matter of fact I was just going to call for the next point that I was going to talk about here, Kelly, was that Muslims are calling for the execution of homosexuals in America. This was just released yesterday and it shows you that they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination. And I continuously reach out to the homosexual communities on this radio show, Kelly, and I warn them, listen, which ones love? (edited out by Maddow)
You know, here you have Obama condemning it behind the backs of the homosexuals, but to their faces he's promoting it. Because he's the one that said he would never, no matter which way the winds go, Obama said, he is not going to condemn or go against the Muslim nation. He's also the guy that said we're no longer a Christian nation, we're a Muslim nation.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You better back up!
DEAN: As a matter of fact, folks, we just posted a picture of Obama and it says right over the top of his head, In God We Trust, and I said, somebody better talk to Obama. So check that out on SonsofLibertyRadio.com, SonsofLibertyRadio.com. But back to the point. The homosexuals, they need to listen. See, what we have, I say this to my gay friends out there, the ones that continuously nitpick everything I say, in their defense and for their eternal destination, Hollywood is promoting immorality and God of the heavens in Jesus's name is warning you to turn from the wrath to come. Yet you have Muslims calling for your execution. If America won't enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. That's what you're seeing today in America. Read Leviticus 26, America.
In response to these remarks from Dean, the openly gay Maddow said this on her show Aug. 9, 2010 --
Mr. Bradlee with two e's later clarified that he didn't (sarcastically) really mean to sanction murder of gay people. He said, quote, "We have never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals."
On her Aug. 9, 2010 show, Maddow also quoted Dean saying that gay sexual predators on average "molest 117 people before they're found out." Nine months later, on her show May 11, 2011, Maddow again quoted Dean's radio show remarks as previously cited here, suggested that Dean and GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann were "bloodthirsty," and added this while paraphrasing Dean's remarks --
Foreign enemies rising up against America because Christians aren't doing the job of killing the gays.
In his lawsuit against Maddow filed two months later, Dean stated that Maddow's distortion of his remarks harmed his reputation, hurt his livelihood and led to death threats against him.
Filing last week for a dismissal of Dean's lawsuit against her, Maddow stated his complaint "cannot survive for three principal reasons" --
One, the broadcasts truthfully reported on Dean's May 15th statements. Those broadcasts re-played original audio of Dean speaking on the May 15th radio show. Dean does not -- and cannot -- allege that he did not make these controversial statements. The fact that NBCUniversal broadcast the essence but not the entirety of what Dean said during that radio show, as he now protests, does not change this analysis. Dean bears sole responsibility for the consequences of his words, however much he may try to distance himself from the backlash.
Two, the commentary or rebuke Maddow offered about Dean's statements was classic opinion and rhetorical hyperbole, and thus, cannot be actionable as a matter of law. As Dean is entitled to his opinion, however objectionable, so too is Maddow entitled to hers.
Three, the fair comment privilege protects Maddow's commentary. The broadcasts featured Dean's actual statements and clearly indicated the source of those statements. Viewers were free to make up their own minds as to whether they agreed with Maddow's remarks.
With this lawsuit -- his second -- Dean seeks to move one step closer in his self-described mission to stop the "radical gay agenda." The law does not permit him to use the judicial process in this fashion. It is axiomatic that, to state and prove a claim for defamation or false light, Dean must show that NBCUniversal made statements of fact that are both false and defamatory. Unable to demonstrate either, his claims must be dismissed as a matter of law.
In response to Maddow's filing, Larry Klayman, Dean's attorney, said they remain confident in their case --
Maddow and MSNBC clearly defamed my client. Maddow went way over the line, particularly in her second broadcast by claiming that Dean and Republicans like then-presidential candidate Michele Bachmann are 'bloodthirsty' and want to see more gays and lesbians killed. This was outrageous and harmful and for this, Maddow and MSNBC will be held legally accountable.