Court Reinstates Weyrich's Libel Suit

Article excerpt

A federal appeals court has reinstated conservative activist Paul Weyrich's libel suit against the liberal New Republic magazine.

Yesterday's ruling - reversing U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's dismissal of the case - was hailed as a "landmark decision" by Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, the conservative public-interest law firm representing Mr. Weyrich in the case.

"It's not only a big victory for conservatives, but it's a big victory for any public figure who is smeared at the hands of the media," Mr. Klayman told The Washington Times. "Paul Weyrich's a man of great integrity. He will now have an opportunity to recover the severe damage that was caused to him."

The libel case stems from a story in the Oct. 27, 1997, issue of the New Republic titled "Robespierre of the Right" and featuring a cover illustration of Mr. Weyrich operating a guillotine surrounded by the severed heads of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other Republican leaders.

The article describes Mr. Weyrich as "nutty" and an "authoritarian" prone to "habits of suspicion, pessimism and antagonism," who experienced "sudden bouts of . . . paranoia."

Written by David Grann, who was then the New Republic's managing editor, the article cited numerous examples of Mr. Weyrich's "famous temper." It quoted an unnamed lobbyist who described how Mr. Weyrich "snapped" in 1988 and unleashed "a volcano of screaming . . . spitting and frothing at the mouth."

In reinstating the case, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry T. Edwards - appointed to the bench in 1980 by President Carter - wrote in a unanimous three-judge panel ruling that "verifiable anecdotes reported by the author," if proven false, are not "protected" as political commentary. …