A Florida politician says he is taking the rare, almost unheard of, step of suing two newspapers because their news stories and editorials cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Jeff Greene, right, a Florida real estate developer, lost in the Democratic primary after stories in the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald raised questions about some of his business dealings.
The New York Times reports Greene’s libel suit will ask for $500 million in damages to teach the news media a lesson. “I want to send a message to every newspaper in the country: Do your homework,” the paper quoted Greene as saying. “I deserve to have the record corrected, and they deserve to be punished.”
As a public figure, under Times v. Sullivan, Greene will have to prove the articles were published with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.
Of course, the question I’d want to ask a jury is: How has he been damaged?
He lost an election, but can he prove the papers’ coverage had anything to do with that? Besides, it was the primary and that only gets you to the general. What are his damages? Does he claim a property right to a pool of voters untainted by actual news reporting, exposed only to his TV commercials? Is he saying the voters are incapable of judging the veracity of the articles and editorials?
The news articles in both the St. Pete and Miami papers were written by St. Pete political reporter Adam C. Smith. One of the stories, about some serious partying aboard Greene’s yacht, resulted in a correction that said boxer Mike Tyson in fact did not take drugs while on board.
Another of his stories reported on Greene’s treatment of others.
“But behind the bio soundbites and chipper TV ads lies a man widely disparaged by current and former employees, former tenants and political consultants as a self-absorbed cheapskate,” Smith wrote. “A lawsuit accuses him of being cruel and verbally abusive to his former chef. A deckhand shocked on Greene’s Summerwind yacht had to fight eight months to get his medical bills paid after Greene denied knowing him.”
But how to do you sue over an editorial? It called on investigators to look into some of his real estate dealings. Is that not allowed?
Next a politician will sue an opponent for lying about him. Oh yeah, that does happen.