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Farah v. Esquire - D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Farah v. Esquire - D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

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Published by FindLaw
"Birther" publisher and founder of conservative website WorldNetDaily Joseph Farah had his defamation suit against Esquire Magazine dismissed, with the Court upholding the publication's right to political satire.

The suit began in June 2011, when Farah and author Jerome Corsi sued Esquire for running a parody article regarding the release of Corsi's newest book entitled “Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to Be President."

Esquire's offending article, penned by journalist Mark Warren, lambasted Corsi and Farsi -- the book's publisher -- with a fake news story about Farsi pulling the book from shelves, denying its existence, and offering refunds.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed on Tuesday (see below) that Farah and Corsi had no case for defamation, based on the fact that the article was clearly satire and "satirical speech enjoys First Amendment protection."

Considering the article in context, the Court denied that a reasonable reader could have mistaken the article for "real news." In addition, commenting on Farah and Corsi's beliefs that President Obama is ineligible for the presidency (the "Birther" mindset) is also protected political speech.
"Birther" publisher and founder of conservative website WorldNetDaily Joseph Farah had his defamation suit against Esquire Magazine dismissed, with the Court upholding the publication's right to political satire.

The suit began in June 2011, when Farah and author Jerome Corsi sued Esquire for running a parody article regarding the release of Corsi's newest book entitled “Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to Be President."

Esquire's offending article, penned by journalist Mark Warren, lambasted Corsi and Farsi -- the book's publisher -- with a fake news story about Farsi pulling the book from shelves, denying its existence, and offering refunds.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed on Tuesday (see below) that Farah and Corsi had no case for defamation, based on the fact that the article was clearly satire and "satirical speech enjoys First Amendment protection."

Considering the article in context, the Court denied that a reasonable reader could have mistaken the article for "real news." In addition, commenting on Farah and Corsi's beliefs that President Obama is ineligible for the presidency (the "Birther" mindset) is also protected political speech.

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Published by: FindLaw on Nov 27, 2013
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11/30/2013

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United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Argued October 3, 2013Decided November 26, 2013 No. 12-7055J
OSEPH
F
ARAH
,
 ET AL
.,A
PPELLANTS
v.E
SQUIRE
M
AGAZINE
,
 ET AL
.,A
PPELLEES
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the District of Columbia(No. 1:11-cv-01179)
 Larry Klayman
 argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellants.
 Jonathan R. Donnellan
 argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief were
Kristina E. Findikyan
,
 Laura R. Handman
, and
 Micah J. Ratner 
.
 John R. Eastburg
 entered anappearance.
 Irvin B. Nathan
, Attorney General, Office of the AttorneyGeneral for the District of Columbia,
 Ariel B. Levinson-Waldman
, Senior Counsel to the Attorney General,and
Todd S. Kim
, Solicitor General, were on the brief for 
amicus curiae
District of Columbia in support of appellees.
 
2
Seth D. Berlin
 was on the brief for
amici curiae
 AdvancePublications, Inc., et al. in support of appellees.Before: R 
OGERS
 and B
ROWN
,
Circuit Judges
, and W
ILLIAMS
,
Senior Circuit Judge
.Opinion for the Court by
Circuit Judge
 R 
OGERS
.
Circuit Judge
B
ROWN
 concurring in the judgment.
OGERS
,
Circuit Judge
: This case is principally adefamation action based on the publication of an article by journalist Mark Warren on
 Esquire Magazine
’s Politics Blog. The article was posted one day after the release of a book entitled
“Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to Be President 
,” written by Jerome Corsiand published by Joseph Farah’s WND Books. Farah’s website,WorldNetDaily, announced the book launch with the headline,
It’s out! The book that proves Obama’s ineligible:
Today’sthe day Corsi is unleashed to tell all about that ‘birthcertificate’” (emphasis in original). Approximately three weeksearlier, President Obama had released his long-form birthcertificate showing that he was born in Hawaii. Warren’s articlewas entitled “
BREAKING: Jerome Corsi’s Birther BookPulled from Shelves!
” (emphasis in original). It stated, in part:“In a stunning development one day after the release of [theCorsi book], [Farah] has announced plans to recall and pulp theentire 200,000 first printing run of the book, as well asannouncing an offer to refund the purchase price to anyone whohas already bought . . . the book.” Approximately ninetyminutes later,
 Esquire
 published an “update” on its blog “for those who didn’t figure it out,” that Warren’s article was“satire”; the “update” clarified that the article was untrue and referenced other “serious”
 Esquire
 articles on the birthcertificate issue. Farah observed the same day that he thought
 
3the blog post was a “poorly executed parody.” Also that day,Warren told
The Daily Caller
that he had no regrets about publishing the fictitious article and expressed his negative viewof the book’s author; his statements were published on
The Daily Caller 
 website that day and the following day.Farah and Corsi filed suit for compensatory and punitivedamages alleging defamation, false light, interference with business relations, invasion of privacy, and violation of theLanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A) and (B).
 Esquire
 for alldefendants moved to dismiss on several grounds, and the districtcourt dismissed the complaint. Farah and Corsi appeal, focusing in their brief principally on the dismissal under theD.C. Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation(“Anti-SLAPP”) Act, D.C. Code § 16-5501
et. seq.
, and dismissal of the Lanham Act claim. Upon
de novo
review, wehold that the complaint was properly dismissed pursuant toFederal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state aclaim because the blog post was fully protected political satireand the “update” and Warren’s statements are protected opinion. The complaint also fails to state a claim for violation of theLanham Act. Accordingly, we affirm the dismissal of thecomplaint. 
I.
Joseph Farah is the Editor and Chief Executive Officer of WorldNetDaily.com, a news and commentary Internet publication which competes with
 Esquire
 
 Magazine
.
See
Compl. ¶ 2. WND Books is a wholly owned subsidiary of WorldNetDaily.com.
See id.
Jerome Corsi is a “world-renowned author of several New York Times bestsellers . . . and the author of the newly released book by WND Books, “
Where’sthe Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is Not  Eligible to be President 
.” Compl. 3. These individuals and 

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