NASHVILLE (CN) – Two ejected “American Idol” contestants do not have a libel case against the E! network and Fox because the challenged statements are true, a federal judge ruled.
Corey Clark from the 2002 season of the singing competition sued E! Entertainment Television, Fox and others in 2012, and fellow second season contestant Jaered Andrews joined as a co-plaintiff in an amended complaint.
Both singers were thrown off the show for failing to disclose criminal histories. Clark was given the boot for not revealing an arrest related to a domestic dispute with his younger sister, while “Idol” disqualified Andrews over his involvement in a bar fight that resulted in a man’s death. He was later charged with assault.
The final iteration of their action included Viacom and MTV as defendants.
It also includes claims that Clark had sexual relations with then-judge Paula Abdul, but “Idol” lawyers said they found no evidence of the affair.
Clark claimed in a previous version of his lawsuit: “Shortly after Clark’s performance on December 11, 2002, American Idol Judge Paula Abdul, who was publicly magnetized by what she described as Corey Clark’s ‘star quality,’ initiated communications with plaintiff via her backstage assistant and promptly offered to be his ‘special friend.'”
A “sham investigative report” by two law firms hired by Fox concluded that Clark made up his affair with Abdul, resulting in him being labeled “the guy who fabricated the story about sleeping with a famous judge just to sell a record,” he claimed.
The Smoking Gun, which is not a party to the action, ultimately reported the arrest that cost Clark his place on the show in March 2003.
He alleged libel, false light invasion of privacy and other claims. Andrews contended libel and false light invasion of privacy.
Considering a motion to dismiss this month, Chief U.S. District Judge William Haynes found that just three statements about Clark’s arrest, which he claims constitute libel, fall within the statute of limitations.
All three appeared in MTV news articles: a where-are-they-now piece that said “nobody cared about his album” and mentioned “tall tales about sleeping with an Idol judge,” an article that said Clark concealed his arrest record, and a story that uses his name in reference to an “award for past indiscretions.”
The only statement deemed timely for Andrews appeared in another MTV article that says he “was sent home over undisclosed assault charges.”
Haynes dismissed the case on May 13, ruling that the statements Clark thinks are libelous are actually just statements commenting on published facts. The one statement Andrews can challenge is also true and therefore not libel, Haynes found.
This truth factor also blocks the men’s false light invasion of privacy claims.
“The defendants’ alleged objectionable statements are true or substantially true,” Haynes wrote. “Thus, these statements fail to state a claim for false light invasion of privacy.”
Clark’s claims for violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, right of publicity and negligent hiring meanwhile failed because the statements in question are opinions rather than factual representations. His name also was not used in advertisements, and he failed to show the “unfitness” of an MTV employee who wrote articles about Clark’s arrest history, the court found.
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