SAVANNAH, Tenn. — Tennessee attorney Houston Gordon, former state Democratic Party head and the 1998 party candidate for U.S.
Senate against Fred Thompson, is attempting to intimidate a west Tennessee weekly newspaper editor for having reprinted three
According to Charlotte Alexander, editor of the Decatur County Chronicle, she received a call two weeks ago from someone identifying
herself as an employee of Gordon’s Covington, Tenn., law firm. The caller asked general questions about the newspaper and then hung
up. This week, Gordon himself called Alexander and advised her — in what she termed a “bullying” tone — that Clark Jones, a
subject of several of the
WorldNetDaily articles penned by reporters Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays, will “probably sue for libel” over allegations made in those articles.
Gordon and Jones have a long personal history. Both have been major factors in the Tennessee Democratic Party with Gordon serving as chairman and Jones, most recently, acting as treasurer for Tennessee Democratic Victory 2000. A car dealer in Savannah, Tenn., just south of Decatur County, Jones was named in 1993 as one of 11 members of the President’s Commission on Small Businesses.
Jones is so well known in Gore finance circles that he was contacted and interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and other newspapers for stories on his fundraising efforts for Gore. And so close is their personal relationship, that Gore bought Al III an Oldsmobile Alero from Jones’s car dealership. (The 18-year-old was arrested Aug. 12 for speeding, driving 97 mph in a 55 mph zone, and pleaded guilty this week.)
The primary WorldNetDaily article dealing with Jones involved a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe in Hardin County, Tenn., home to Savannah. After a clandestine meeting with Jones, the investigation, which eventually encompassed Jones, his brother Charlie and Chancery Court Judge Ron Harmon, simply died. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency ultimately picked up the probe.
When WND released the articles in late September, Jones contacted a number of local sources quoted in the pieces and asked that they recant their statements. Out of more than a dozen sources, only realtor Benny Austin claimed he’d been misquoted. Several of the other individuals quoted were told by Jones that Savannah Mayor Bob Shutt, a key source in the article, had recanted his statement in writing. Not so, said Shutt, who told WorldNetDaily, “I would never do that.”
Tony Hays, one of the WND writers, contributes local news to an area online newspaper,
The Savannah Journal. About the same time that Charlotte Alexander received her first call from Gordon’s office, Hays got a similar call. In this case, Gordon employee Scott Simon claimed he wanted to list a classified ad to sell his car. After asking pointed questions about Savannah Journal staff members and circulation, Hays called the bluff and replied: “You don’t want to advertise a car; you’re on a fishing expedition for Houston Gordon and Clark Jones.” Hays was not contacted again.
Oddly, WorldNetDaily, the original publisher of the articles, has not been contacted by Gordon’s office. According to libel law, the original publisher bears the primary liability. And since WND is located in Oregon, the case would have to be filed there. In any case, Gordon and Jones will have to meet three difficult burdens of proof: a) that the allegations in the article were false; b) that Hays and Thompson knew they were false and printed them anyway; and c) that they did so with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.
For her part, Charlotte Alexander is more than ready for the battle. “If they want to go to war, I’ll be there. If I’d had any doubts as to the credibility of the articles or authors, I would never have reprinted the series.”
Noting that she sold out of all issues containing the WorldNetDaily articles, Alexander added, “Most people who come into the office comment that it’s about time the truth was published.”
Repeated calls to Gordon’s office were not returned.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – An 8-year-old, $165 million defamation case against WND springing from a series of stories about then-presidential candidate Al Gore has been settled.
The terms of the out-of-court agreement with auto dealer Clark Jones are confidential. The settlement averts the need for a trial in Tennessee that was scheduled for next month.
Below is the text of the settlement statement jointly drafted by all parties in the lawsuit. Both sides agreed to limit comment on the lawsuit to this statement:
“A lawsuit for libel, defamation, false light and conspiracy was filed by Clark Jones of Savannah, Tennessee against WorldNetDaily.com, Tony Hays and Charles H. Thompson II arising out of a press release issued by WorldNetDaily.com on September 18, 2000, and articles dated September 20, October 8, November 24 and December 5, 2000, written by Tony Hays and Charles H. Thompson, II, posted on WorldNetDaily.com’s website.
“The original news release by WorldNetDaily.com of September 18, 2000, and the article by Hays and Thompson of September 20, 2000, contained statements attributed to named sources, which statements cast Clark Jones in a light which, if untrue, defamed him by asserting that the named persons said that he had interfered with a criminal investigation, had been a ‘subject’ of a criminal investigation, was listed on law enforcement computers as a ‘dope dealer,’ and implied that he had ties to others involved in alleged criminal activity. These statements were repeated in the subsequently written articles and funds solicitations posted on WorldNetDaily.com’s website. Clark Jones emphatically denied the truth of these statements, denied any criminal activity and called upon the publisher and authors to retract them.
“Discovery has revealed to WorldNetDaily.com that no witness verifies the truth of what the witnesses are reported by authors to have stated. Additionally, no document has been discovered that provides any verification that the statements written were true.
“Factual discovery in the litigation and response from Freedom of Information Act requests to law enforcement agencies confirm Clark Jones’ assertion that his name has never been on law enforcement computers, that he has not been the subject of any criminal investigation nor has he interfered with any investigation as stated in the articles. Discovery has also revealed that the sources named in the publications have stated under oath that statements attributed to them in the articles were either not made by them, were misquoted by the authors, were misconstrued, or the statements were taken out of context.
“WorldNetDaily.com and its editors never intended any harm to Clark Jones and regret whatever harm occurred. WorldNetDaily.com has no verified information by which to question Mr. Jones’ honesty and integrity, and having met him, has no claim or reason to question his honesty and integrity. WorldNetDaily.com wishes him well.”