Last summer, Bradlee Dean of the You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry — which was recently designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — filed a $50 million lawsuit against Rachel Maddow, claiming she had distorted comments he made suggesting Muslims are more moral than Christians for supporting the execution of homosexuals. (It should be noted that though no suit was filed, Dean recently expressed similar legal concern about ThinkProgress’ reporting on the suit, as described in an update on that post.) Now, Maddow has sought a swift dismissal of the claim under anti-SLAPP protections, which ensure that frivolous suits do not stifle free speech with the threat of mounting legal fees. MSNBC’s court response outlines three reasons Dean’s suit should fail:
1. The broadcasts truthfully reported on Dean’s May 15th statements. Those broadcasts re-played original audio of Dean speaking on the May 15th radio show. Dean does not – and cannot – allege that he did not make those controversial statements. The fact that NBCUniversal broadcast the essence but not the entirety of what Dean said during that radio show, as he now protests, does not change this analysis. Dean bears sole responsibility for the consequences of his words, however much he may try to distance himself from the backlash.
2. The commentary or rebuke Maddow offered about Dean’s statements was classic opinion and rhetorical hyperbole, and thus, cannot be actionable as a matter of law. As Dean is entitled to his opinions, however objectionable, so too is Maddow entitled to hers.
3. The fair comment privilege protects Maddow’s commentary. The broadcasts featured Dean’s actual statements and clearly indicated the source of those statements. Viewers were free to make up their own minds as to whether they agreed with Maddow’s remarks.
The response goes on to explain that the judicial process does not permit Dean to use lawsuits as part of his mission to stop the “radical gay agenda.” Though Dean has backed away from the comments and explained he in no way endorses the execution of homosexuals, he has nevertheless repeatedly called for gay people to be persecuted and incarcerated because he believes they are somehow a threat to children. He may not wish to be known for supporting the execution of gays, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with supporting their life imprisonment.
ThinkProgress’ Alyssa Rosenberg also examines the sense of entitlement conservatives like Bradlee Dean have about their anti-gay rhetoric.