(CN) – Journalists who disseminated a controversial essay written by a congressional hopeful do not have to face defamation claims, the New York Appellate Division ruled.
The controversy arose over “The Western Contribution to World History,” an essay that James Russell wrote for Occidental Quarterly in 2001.
Russell’s essay criticizes a number of contemporary movies such as “Crazy/Beautiful,” “O,” and “Save the Last Dance” that feature young white women in interracial relationships.
Such films are “deliberately designed to exploit the critical period of sexual imprinting in their target audience of white pre-adolescent girls and adolescent young women,” Russell said.
He also discussed Arthur Jensen’s studies of IQ and race, T.S. Eliot’s preference for a “homogenous society,” and Eliot’s opinion that “reasons of race and culture combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.”
Criticism was rampant after news outlets reported on the essay during Russell’s 2010 campaign to represent New York’s 18th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Brian Thomas, a lawyer, called Russell a Nazi on ChicagoNow.com.
“That word actually applies to him,” Thomas wrote.
New York Magazine writer Dan Amira said : “If Jim Russell builds a time machine, goes back to 1950, then moves to Alabama, then he might be a viable candidate for Congress.”
Two months before the election, the Westchester County Republican Party dropped Russell from the ballot.
Russell then sued the journalists and politicians who commented on his essay, claiming defamation.
Thomas and Amira were not named in the lawsuit, which sought $1 million from each of nine defendants, including six journalists and three Republican party officials.
The defendants argued that their statements were opinions and not facts that could be proven false in a defamation case. They also said that Russell could not prove malicious intent.
A Westchester Supreme Court judge dismissed the case, and a Brooklyn-based appellate panel affirmed on July 11.
“In the case, the context of the complained-of statements was such that a reasonable reader would have concluded that he or she was reading and/or listening to opinions, and not facts, about the plaintiff,” Justice Reinaldo Rivera wrote for the Second Department. “Moreover, in all instances, the defendants made the statements with express reference to the essay written by the plaintiff, including quotations from the essay.”
“Thus, the statements of opinion are non-actionable on the additional basis that there was full disclosure of the facts supporting the opinions,” he added.