Central European News and its founder Michael Leidig’s lawsuit over BuzzFeed referring to him as the “King of Bullshit News” was dismissed, Press Gazette reported.
Matt Mittenthal, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed News, told iMediaEthics: “The federal courts have now twice rejected this baseless lawsuit, and twice found no falsehoods in the original BuzzFeed News article cited by the plaintiffs. Truthful journalism has prevailed once again, and we’re glad this litigation is coming to an end.”
Harry Wise, CEN and Leidig’s lawyer, told iMediaEthics, “A decision that credits one side’s evidence and devalues the other side’s violates the basic rules that should be applied on a motion for summary judgment. The idea that the First Amendment prevents a libel plaintiff from creating an issue of fact as to the libel’s truth or falsity by testifying that he does not do the bad thing that the libel accuses him of doing is simply wrong–not supported by the Celle case that the panel invokes or by any other authority. I am preparing a petition to ask the panel to reconsider its decision, and, failing that, to have the full court consider the question en banc, because the decision is contrary to other decisions in the Second Circuit and elsewhere.”
A New York appeals court ruled in late December that Leidig and CEN “simply fail to present any competent evidence suggesting that BuzzFeed‘s reporting was false,” according to Press Gazette. New York District Court judge Victor Marrero previously ruled in March dismissing Leidig’s claim. The ruling further comments that Leidig and CEN were “better positioned than” BuzzFeed to “show whether their reports on two-headed goats, people walking cabbages out of loneliness, and so on, were accurate and substantially true,” but didn’t “establish any genuine issue of material fact with respect to the falsity of BuzzFeed‘s” claims.
Leidig and CEN sued BuzzFeed for $11 million back in 2016 over the article, which claimed Leidig and CEN “often” sell fake “oddball human interest pieces” to news outlets. The article from BuzzFeed alleged:
“The firm’s business model, like that of many other news agencies, is to sell a regular stream of stories and pictures to other media companies, which publish them under the bylines of their own reporters. In CEN’s case, these include a string of stories from relatively remote parts of China, India, Russia, and other non-Western countries. They tend to depict the inhabitants of those countries as barbaric, sex-crazed, or just plain weird. And often they are inaccurate or downright false.”
Disclosure: Between August 2012 and February 2013, freelance journalists working for CEN wrote five articles for iMediaEthics.
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