Friday, March 26, 2010

R.I. Restauranteur Serves Up Libel Suit Against DJ & Reporter

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Courtroom News Service (CNS) reports that politically connected Providence restauranteur Bob Burke, owner of Pot au Feu, has filed a defamation suit in Superior Court against WPRO-AM talkmeister Dan Yorke, reporter Katherine Gregg, and their respective employers, Citadel Broadcasting Co. and The Providence Journal.

Burke's eatery hosted the "Murphy's Law Luncheon" on St. Patrick's Day in 2009 for Ocean State solons headed by former R.I. House Speaker William Murphy, the District 26 Democrat succeeded last month by Gordon Fox. According to the complaint, Burke alleges the defendants ascribed to him what actually was Rep. Murphy's position that lawmakers' comments at the luncheon be "off-the-record."

Burke alleges that a column by Gregg wrongly attributed the off-the-record rule to him, which purportedly sparked an on-air rant by talk-radio provocateur Yorke against him. Burke alleges his reputation was harmed personally and professionally by the on-air attack in which Yorke purportedly called him "stupid," a "punk," a "mob actor," and a " manipulative piece of garbage," among other epithets, and invited Burke to "kiss my Irish ass."

"TUOL" has not yet reviewed the complaint. Such invective, which sadly passes for political discourse nowadays, rarely reaches the defamation threshold, but is considered opinion or rhetorical hyperbole. The high-profile plaintiff likely would be considered a public figure, rather than a private person, which also raises his burden of proving defamation.

Still, the restauranteur's lawsuit has given the local media something to chew on.

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