Sporting goods company Tannerite Sports LLC lost its libel lawsuit against NBC News, which had called its shooting targets “bombs for sale” and “dangerous explosives.” Why? Because the report was “substantially true.”
NBC News’ Today aired a story in March 2015 in which reporter Jeff Rossen said, “Right now, I am basically holding a bomb in my hand.” Rossen also said “the key ingredient” in the Tannerite targets “has been used by terrorists to kill Americans.” Kentucky NBC-affiliate WLEX-TV also aired a report about the claims, and the NBC website published a story, “Bombs for sale: Targets containing dangerous explosive being sold legally.”
NBC News’ story noted that Tannerite Sports LLC argued its product was appropriately regulated because “the only injuries that have ever happened were results from the shooter misusing the product.” Shortly after, Tannerite sued both NBC and WLEX-TV, as iMediaEthics reported.
According to Courthouse News Service, a Manhattan federal district court judge first dismissed the lawsuit in 2015; this week, U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler upheld that ruling. Pooler’s July 25 ruling for the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is uploaded here. iMediaEthics has written to both NBC News and Tannerite’s lawyer for a response to the ruling.
An NBC spokesperson told Reuters, “NBC News is very pleased that the court determined our reporting was accurate, and that there was no basis for a libel suit.”
Pooler’s July 25 ruling explained that the district court dismissed Tannerite’s lawsuit “because the complaint failed to allege that NBC’s publications made a false statement.” In addition, the district court found the description of “bombs” was “substantially true.” Given that the product in question — targets that explode when shot — is an explosive, the district court ruled it was fair to call it an explosive and generally, a bomb, since it is “designed or intended to explode.” In addition, the court flagged the fact that NBC News did not claim the product was dangerous if used as intended.