Gossip website’s posts on Kasim Reed sparks tart exchange between lawyers
5:46 pm, October 26th, 2012
In response to sexually-charged allegations about Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and members of his staff on the “Lipstick Alley” website, McKenna Long & Aldridge partner Randy Evans fired off a letter on Reed’s behalf demanding that the site immediately remove “any and all statements about Mayor Reed that are false, defamatory, and cause significant harm to his reputation and good name.”
Failure to remove the offending statements, wrote Evans in the Oct. 8 missive, “will leave us no choice but to recommend that Mayor Reed pursue all legal causes of action that he might have, which include litigation in which Mayor Reed would pursue damages, attorney’s fees and costs.”
The letter seems to have been successful – temporarily. According to an Oct. 17 response from Paul Levy of the Washington, D.C-based Public Citizen Litigation Group, Lipstick Alley’s “weak-kneed” web hosting service pulled the site entirely, then restored it “on condition that Lipstick Alley reach a compromise with your client. Instead of consenting to those conditions, Lipstick Alley has found a new hosting service that can be counted on to stand up for its customers’ legal rights.”
“Your demands reflect a woeful ignorance of the facts and the law,” wrote Levy. “Lipstick Alley is a forum that allows members of the public to express their views about public figures such as elected officials, professional athletes, and popular entertainers and writers.”
“Lipstick Alley does not know whether its members are telling the truth about Kasim Reed, any more than it knows whether you are telling the truth when you deny the truth of those statements,” Levy continued. “For all you know, the anonymous users of the web site may have personal knowledge of facts they discuss, but I am confident that you yourself have no personal knowledge about whether Reed of any of the other public officials have engaged in the sexual activities mentioned in your letter. For all of these reasons, Lipstick Alley is in no more position to ‘retract’ the statements that it did not make than it would be to confirm them.”
Should Reed follow through on his threat, wrote Levy, Lipstick Alley “will defend itself vigorously and, indeed, it reserves the right to seek an award of attorney fees under the relevant anti-SLAPP statute or bases on the bringing of frivolous litigation.”
Lipstick Alley has, in the past, removed some content in response to “reasonable requests from representatives of criticized individuals who recognized that Lipstick Alley is not legally liable but provided sensible arguments about why particular messages ought to be removed,” wrote Levy. “But Lipstick Alley does not negotiate with bullies. You may advise your client that he can expect the messages about which you previously complained to remain on the site in perpetuity.”
Evans said Friday that he would continue to pursue Lipstick Alley and any web hosting service it hires until the offending statements are excised.
“It’s been like whack-a-mole,” he said. “We went after one and they took them down, now another one has, and we’re going after a third.” Reed, he said, “has just had enough of these false allegations; he’s committed to this idea at he’s not going to take it anymore. It’s all false, everybody agrees it’s completely untrue, and we want to get to the original source. We’ll find out who it is, and that person will be held accountable.”
Levy laughed when apprised of Evans’ comments.
“He’s ‘going after’ them?” said Levy. “That doesn’t bode well for his client. He sent me an email threatening libel litigation if I blogged about this subject on my blog, after I had already posted it. Not that it would have done anything more than encourage me; I don’t respond well to bullying, and neither does Lipstick Alley; big talk from a little man.”
Reed spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs said the mayor was comfortable allowing Evans to speak to the issue for him.