The Howard Dean-Kathleen Sebelius-Kansas tornado story has taken an interesting turn.
Scott Johnson at Power Line reported Saturday that attorneys representing the Democratic National Committee have sent a cease and desist letter to Free Republic due to a post at its website concerning allegations made on the “Quinn & Rose” XM Satellite radio show Thursday (h/t Glenn Reynolds).
Howard Dean appears to be doing another “I Have a Scream” speech, only this time through his attorneys.
Isn’t that special?
The letter stated:
A post by “coffee260” on “Freerepublic.com” today states that this morning, on the “Quinn & Rose” show on XM, co-host Jim Quinn stated that DNC Chairman Governor Howard Dean had called Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.) “around 5:00 a.m. one morning after a tornado had destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kansas and discussed with her what to say about the tornado and how to blame the war in Iraq and the Bush administration on a slow response to the aftermath.”
The statement made by Mr. Quinn, repeated on FreeRepublic.com, is demonstrably, unequivocally and absolutely false. Governor Dean had no such conversation with Governor Sebelius, ever.
Power Line’s Johnson was duly unimpressed (emphasis added throughout):
The attorney who sent the letter on behalf of the DNC is attorney Joseph Sandler, representing the Democratic National Committee. In my view, Sandler is a thug representing a bunch of reprobates and bullies. Here's why.
Under the First Amendment, as construed by the Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan, citizens are protected from defamation claim by public figures so long as the statements in issue are lacking in "actual malice," i.e, knowledge of their falsehood or reckless disregard as to whether they are false or not.
After concluding that Sandler’s letter “incorporates no element of ‘actual malice,’" and that “it does not even allege that Jim Quinn had knowledge of the statements' falsity or made them with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity,” Johnson upped the ante:
We therefore associate ourselves with our reader's statements regarding Governor Dean and invite Mr. Sandler to sue us for defamation as he threatens to sue Free Republic. This is to put him and his client on notice, however, that we intend to seek our attorney's fees under federal law for the assertion of a frivolous claim if he does so.
As an interesting sidebar, the folks at Free Republic don't seem too concerned with Sandler's letter, for the post in question is still available. It is also interesting that another Freep post was made on this subject before the one in question. Yet, the DNC didn't ask for its removal.