Newspaper Cleared on Radio Host’s Libel Claim over KKK Label

Jeff D. Gorman, Courthouse News, November 1, 2017

Quoting Aesop’s fable “The Ass and the Purchaser,” a judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals wrote Tuesday that “a man is known by the company he keeps” in a decision finding that the Detroit News did not defame a radio host by calling him a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Detroit News Columnist Bankole Thompson wrote last year that white nationalist radio show host James Edwards is a “leader” of the KKK.

Edwards hosts a show called “The Political Cesspool,” and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke is a frequent guest.  He states on the show’s website, “We represent a philosophy that is pro-white.”

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Edwards’ lawyer demanded a retraction, stating that Edwards “is not now, nor has he ever been, associated with the Ku Klux Klan – much less a leader of it,” according to court records.

The newspaper published a clarification that stated, “James Edwards, the Memphis-area host of the radio show ‘The Political Cesspool,’ has no formal position with the Ku Klux Klan.”

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However, Edwards sued the paper and Thompson for defamation and invasion of privacy, arguing the clarification did not cure his injury.

The trial court ruled in the newspaper’s favor, finding that Thompson’s article was an opinion piece and that the word “leaders” is ambiguous.

Edwards appealed, but the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision Tuesday in an opinion written by Judge Brock Swartzle.

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“Considering the multiple meanings that ‘leader’ can have, we do not read the sentence to imply necessarily that Edwards must have held some official, designated leadership role in the Ku Klux Klan,” Swartzle wrote.

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[Editor’s Note: The full ruling is available here.]

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