WorldNetDaily is asking a Tennessee appeals court to explain some anomalous statements ? including a requirement that WND be billed for attorney costs for an appeal it never even filed ? made in a procedural order issued recently in a free press battle that was launched during the 2000 presidential election season.
Media lawyer Larry Parrish, representing WND against a defamation claim by a Tennessee businessman, said he’s sought expert opinions on the issue and has been told there is “no way” the order from the Court of Appeals of Tennessee Western Section at Jackson should remain unchallenged.
Among other shockers, the ruling dismissed an appeal that it attributed to WorldNetDaily, even though WND didn’t file an appeal.
The court order also assessed WND the costs for the appeal it didn’t file.
“I have consulted with other experts in the law relevant to this matter who have no interest in the lawsuit at all,” Parrish told WorldNetDaily yesterday. He described them as people who are “uniquely qualified” to consider the issue.
“And (I) have been told that there is no way by which to legally justify how the court has chosen to dispose of the issue.”
The lawsuit stems from a series of 18 investigative reports posted by WND between September and December 2000, most of them documenting charges of corruption involving then-Vice President Al Gore and others in Gore’s home state of Tennessee.
The $165 million libel action was filed by Savannah, Tenn., businessman and Democratic Party activist Clark Jones against WorldNetDaily.com and writers Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays, among others.
Jones, who raised more than $100,000 for Gore’s presidential campaign, alleges personal embarrassment and humiliation from the articles, which said he reportedly intervened in a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe into narcotics trafficking in Hardin County in 1999. The car dealer also alleges the articles implicated him in the 1980 arson of his own business, the Jones Motor Company, and also pegged him as a suspected drug dealer.
The ruling at issue, dated July 11, apparently should have addressed an appeal regarding confidential sources by the article writers, Hays, of Savannah, Tenn., and Thompson, of McLean, Va. They have consistently stood by their stories, and have not revealed any confidential sources. Their appeal was filed April 22, 2005.
WorldNetDaily, however, did not file an appeal because it did not have ? or use ? any confidential sources, so it is not participating in those arguments.
“WND never asserted any privilege based on any statute. It has never been claimed by any party nor asserted by WND that WND has the name of any confidential source to divulge; therefore, WND would have had no reason to assert a right not to reveal information that WND did not have to reveal,” Parrish’s request to the court said.
“The Order finds that the ‘appeal of WND,’ which is nonexistent, was dismissed because WND had ‘no right to appeal.’ True, WND had no right to appeal; WND never claimed a right to appeal; WND never appealed,” Parrish wrote.
Since the order also assessed appeal costs to WND, that would leave WND paying for an appeal it didn’t initiate, Parrish said.
The lawyer also noted that the ruling makes statements as if certain issues already had been determined by a trial court. For example, the court order determines that the writers were “engaged by” WorldNetDaily to write the articles. In fact, WorldNetDaily only became aware of the writers after the articles already were completed, officials said.
“There has never been an evidentiary proceeding in the trial court for the purpose of making a final determination of the facts,” Parrish told the judges. Also, the order describes the writers as “agents of WND,” which also remains a disputed statement still unresolved by trial.
“This is an important factual determination, dependant on contested views with respect to the law, that has potential importance in the outcome of the trial,” the lawyer wrote.
The court order also described the articles as having been “published” with “extensive notoriety” and were “prima facie defamatory.” Again, the request for rehearing said, those are the substantive disputes in the still-unheard case.
“It would be impossible to conceive a more contested fact in the trial court (than the reference to defamation),” the response to the court order said. “But, more importantly, this contested fact has not been decided in any way or by any proceeding in the trial court.”
“What this order does is create substantial confusion in how the case will be prosecuted from this point,” Parrish told WorldNetDaily.
Jones was quoted in the articles as denying the various allegations, and he and his lawyer to date have not documented evidence refuting the claims.
Hays also completed a 20-part series on drug trafficking in west Tennessee that primarily was responsible for the Courier of Savannah winning the 2000 Public Service Award from the Tennessee Press Association. He has published two novels, numerous magazine and newspaper articles on Tennessee political corruption, and a history of the Savannah area, the last through a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Thompson, who started his journalism career in print media, soon moved to television, where he captured an Emmy for his investigative reporting as well as the Headliner’s Award. He worked for a number of years as Mike Wallace’s producer at CBS’ 60 Minutes and was a founding producer of ABC’s 20/20. His investigation into the explosion of “gun turret two” on the U.S.S. Iowa in 1989 resulted in a book, published by W.W. Norton in 1999 and a movie starring James Caan.
Also named in the suit were five John Does and five Jane Does, as well as the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., WSIB-AM in Selmer, Tenn., the Decatur County Chronicle, WTVF Newschannel 5 in Nashville, the Savannah Snitch, the Savannah Journal, Larry Brinton, a commentator for WTVF, H.J. Maxedon of Selmer and Rebecca Hagelin, at the time WND’s vice president for communication.
“Some people have evidently been made uncomfortable by this series of stories,” Joseph Farah, editor of WorldNetDaily.com, has said. “I’m not surprised. Good journalism often makes people uncomfortable. But uncomfortable does not equate with inaccurate, libelous, actionable, unfair or malicious. WorldNetDaily has made every effort to ensure that its reporting in this series ?- and in everything it has covered ? was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate.”
Help WND fight landmark 1st Amendment legal battle
WorldNetDaily?s only recourse in this lawsuit is to fight every step of the way in its pursuit of truth. If you would like to help offset the enormous legal costs involved in defending against this attack on the First Amendment, you may make a donation online to WND’s Legal Defense Fund, or by calling WND toll-free at 1-800-4WNDCOM (1-800-496-3266), or by mailing a check ? made payable to WorldNetDaily Legal Defense Fund ? to:
P.O. Box 1627
Medford, OR 97501
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.”