Libel Case: Clark Jones v. WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
Charles C. Akwari
East Tennessee State University
1. Origin of the Case
Tennessee businessman Clark Jones sued WorldNetDaily.com, a socially conservative news and opinion website, and freelance reporters Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays for libel in Tennessee state court, after WorldNetDaily.com published an article written by Thompson and Hays claiming that Jones had interfered with a criminal investigation, had been the subject of a law enforcement investigation into illegal drug trafficking, and was or had been involved in other criminal activities (WorldNetDaily, 2008, para. 5). Moreover, the WorldNetDaily.com also stated that Clark Jones had formed a clique to pursue selfish interest and did criminal activity (WorldNetDaily, 2008). This kind of information was kept broadcasting in the WorldNetDailly.com. However, Clark Jones believed that the information was not truth. Thus, in response to this article he filed a libel suit against WorldNetDailly.com. 2. Resolution of the Case
During the course of the litigation, the judge ruled that WorldNetDaily.com could not rely on statements of anonymous sources to make out its defense of truth without revealing the identity of those sources. The Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear the issue because WorldNetDaily.com did not take a proper appeal. Discovery revealed to WorldNetDaily.com that no witness verifies the truth of what the witnesses are reported by authors to have stated. Additionally, no document has been discovered that provides any verification that the statements written were true. Clark Jones won the libel suit against the WorldNetDailly.com in 2008. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and awarded plaintiff $165,000,000 in compensatory damages on his libel claim and monetary damages on his business claims (WorldNetDailly, 2008. para. 12). The WorldNetDaily.com agreed to pay for $165 million as compensation to Clark Jones (WorldNetDailly, 2008). The court ruled that there is no evidence could support the truthiness of information that WorldNetDailly.com had in the article and there is “no document has been discovered that provides any verification that the statements written were true” (WorldNetDailly, 2008. para. 6). The court also ruled that the information in the article has damaged reputation to Clark Jones. Thus, the WorldNetDailly.com paid Clark Jones $165 million dollars in total (WorldNetDailly, 2008). 3. Background on Libel
There are four conditions which can judge whether a case can be thought as a libel case or not. The case should meet the basic conditions such as defamation, publication, identification, and fault (Tedford & Herbeck, 2009). In the Clark Jones’, there is insulting and harmful information in the article which can be called defamation. The article was published on the Internet which was viewed by many people.
As Tedford and Herbeck (2013) wrote, there are two kinds of defamatory speech, libel and slander. The more intense and serious defamation occurs under libel where it is either broadcasted or published (newspaper or internet) (p.76). Statements which on their face defame and injure the reputation are called libel per se (p.77). Libel per se includes four types of statements, one of which is “statements accusing someone of criminality” (p.77). Clark Jones’ was identified as plaintiff, and WorldNetDailly.com was identified as defendant. Since Clark Jones’ is a private plaintiff, he was not acquired actual malice in this case. Thus, this case was considered as a libel case. Moreover, in the process of defending a defamation case, Tedford and Herbeck (2013) states that the common law: Recognizes truth as an effective defense in defamation suits. In keeping with this tradition, most states make truth complete defense in slander and libel suits. However, some states qualify this rule by saying that the truth must be communicated with good motives...
References: Tedford, T. L., & Herbeck, D. A. (2013). Freedom of Speech in the United States (7th ed.). State College, PA: Strata Publishing, Inc.
WorldNetDaily. (2008, February 13). WND Settles $165 Million Libel Case. Retrieved from http://www.wnd.com/2008/02/56353/
Please join StudyMode to read the full document