Monday, October 15, 2001
Dismissal of D.A.R.E. Libel Suit Against Rolling Stone Was Error, Lawyer for Group Tells Ninth Circuit
By a MetNews, Staff Writer
The anti-drug abuse organization D.A.R.E. should be given a trial on its libel suit against Rolling Stone magazine, which ran a story on the group based in part on fabricated sources and quotes, an attorney for D.A.R.E. told a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Friday.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California was wrong, Louis “Skip” Miller of Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro told the appellate judges, in ruling that the magazine couldn’t be held responsible for fabrications by freelance contributor Stephen Glass that its editors were unaware of.
Glass was employed by The New Republic until May 1998, when he was fired for fabricating material. Editor Charles Lane announced that a Glass article about computer hackers was a hoax, and that investigation revealed numerous other discrepancies between Glass’ contributions to the magazine and the facts.
The firing, promptly announced by media reporter Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post, led to investigations by several other magazines to which Glass had contributed, including Rolling Stone.
The Rolling Stone article on D.A.R.E. said the program was a huge waster of taxpayer money, having received at least $600 million in local, state and federal funds for a program that could not show that those who had gone through the program were less likely to use drugs than those who hadn’t.
It also accused D.A.R.E. of efforts to silence critics, and contained anecdotes about the group or its supporters slashing car tires, throwing a brick through a window, and otherwise harassing researchers whose studies had been critical of the program.
Glass, who settled a suit brought by D.A.R.E. against him personally, admitted that the anecdotes were fabricated.
After hiring an independent fact-checker, Rolling Stone ran two “Editor’s Notes,” along with a response by D.A.R.E. founder and former Los Angeles police official Glenn Levant. The magazine detailed what it determined were fabrications by Glass, but wrote that it stood by the “essence” of the story and suggested Glass was accurate in portraying D.A.R.E. a “feel-good program that costs taxpayers millions.”
Miller argued yesterday that the Editor’s Notes were themselves defamatory, because they suggested that D.A.R.E. really did harass critics even while admitting that the specific instances cited by Glass were made up.
The insinuation that D.A.R.E. had engaged in criminal acts, he said, was libelous per se. “There’s nothing criminal about D.A.R.E., never has been, and Glass admitted it,” Miller told the panel.
But Rolling Stone’s attorney, Elizabeth McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine’s New York office, said the district judge was correct. Glass’ knowledge of the falsity of parts of the article couldn’t be attributed to the magazine, since he was an independent contractor, and Rolling Stone cannot be held libel because there wasn’t clear and convincing evidence of actual malice, she argued.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company