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Ala. State Senator Sues Political Blog for Libel

(CN) - An Alabama state senator says a blog called the Alabama Political Reporter published a "false and defamatory" article about him that damaged his reputation.

In a complaint filed in the Etowah County (Ala.) Circuit Court, Bryan Taylor claims the blog and its editors, Bill and Susan Britt, published an article entitled "Shadowy Conduct of the Man Who Would Be Ethics Chief," with the "conscious and malicious objective" of scuttling his potential candidacy for director of the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Taylor, who is also a practicing attorney and is representing himself in the litigation, claims the article contains "a number of maliciously false and defamatory statements, assertions, or imputations," which the article bills as "facts" about his conduct in public service.

As detailed in his complaint, Taylor is most upset about the article's depiction of his service to former Ala. Gov. Bob Riley.

Among what Taylor describes as the "false assertions" included in the blog post are that his conduct while working as an aide to Riley was "clearly improper, unethical, and potentially criminal," because he "received additional compensation from the governor's re-election campaign committee" at the same time that he was on the government payroll.

Taylor further contends the post maligned him by insinuating that he refused to file a mandatory "Statement of Economic Interests" with the state's Ethics Commission over the course of the five years he worked for the governor, and by further claiming that he lied when he told a radio interviewer he practiced law before joining Riley's staff. The blog post claimed he wasn't admitted to the Alabama State bar until seven months after the governor hired him.

Taylor contends these statements are the result of the blog being overly influenced by political advertisers and that the blog routinely published "paid or otherwise compensated" political content "without labeling it as advertising, for the purpose of manipulating public opinion."

He claims the blog's editors "consciously or deliberately" failed to contact him prior to publishing the article, "and thus deprived Taylor of the opportunity to correct Defendants' falsehoods before they were published."

He also claims the editors deliberately avoided discovering or otherwise determining whether the statements contained in the article were true or false.

Taylor says he wrote the defendant Britts on July 10, 2014, demanding a retraction of the article, and that the defendants "failed or refused to respond to the e-mail and refused to accept the certified letter, which was returned 'unclaimed.'"

Even now, he says, the article remains on the Alabama Political Reporter website "exactly as it was initially published," and the Britts continue to publicize it by posting links to the page on Twitter and Facebook.

Taylor says as a direct result of the publication of the article, he has sustained "damage to his good name, reputation, and livelihood as an attorney; he has been unjustly defamed personally, professionally, and politically; he has suffered embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress; and he will continue to suffer damages in the future."

He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and court costs.

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