Thursday, October 25, 2001
Ninth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of D.A.R.E. Libel Suit Against Rolling Stone Magazine, Editor, Publisher
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The anti-drug abuse organization D.A.R.E. isn’t entitled to a trial on its libel suit against Rolling Stone magazine, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The magazine cannot be held responsible for fabrications by freelance contributor Stephen Glass that its editors were unaware of, Judge Pamela Ann Rymer wrote for the panel.
The panel largely adopted the opinion of U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California, who granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Rolling Stone, managing editor Robert Love and publisher Jann Wenner.
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 an investigation had 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.”
D.A.R.E. and Levant, argued 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. But the district judge and the appellate panel rejected that and all of the other arguments raised by D.A.R.E. attorney Louis “Skip” Miller and his colleagues at Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro.
“...Glass was not a Rolling Stone employee, the article was not published by Rolling Stone with actual malice, and the Editor’s Notes are not libelous per se,” Rymer wrote.
Elizabeth McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine’s New York office argued the appeal for the defendants.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company