DALLAS (CN) — A Dallas County judge dismissed Glenn Beck and his network TheBlaze from a defamation lawsuit from the family of “clock boy” Ahmed Mohamed, for statements the conservative commentator made after the controversial arrest.
State District Judge Maricela Moore granted Beck’s motion to dismiss Monday.
She also granted a similar motion by co-defendants the Center for Security Policy and its executive vice president Jim Hanson.
Moore granted the motions under the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act, the state’s Anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).
Mohamed’s father, Ahmed Mohamed, sued the quartet in September last year, along with Fox Television Stations, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, political commentator Ben Ferguson and Ben Shapiro.
Mohamed, a black Muslim immigrant from Sudan, made headlines in September 2015 when he was arrested at MacArthur High School in Irving for bringing a homemade clock to school that appeared as though it could have been a bomb or hoax bomb.
The arrest spurred nationwide comment, and elicited a tweet from President Obama, “Cool clock, Ahmed,” and an invitation to the White House.
The family’s lawsuit objected to statement Beck, Hanson and Van Duyne made about Mohamed’s arrest: Hanson telling Beck that he thought it was a public relations stunt.
“It was a staged event where someone convinced this kid to bring a device that he didn’t build, as you mentioned,” Hanson said, according to the complaint. “It’s a RadioShack clock that he put in a briefcase, and in a briefcase it looks like a bomb … They did that to create the exact scenario that played out. They wanted people to react, and they wanted to portray this kid as an innocent victim. I think he was a pawn of potentially his father.”
The lawsuit claims that Van Duyne said several times that Mohamed was not forthcoming with school or police, and that he brought a “hoax bomb” to school, citing an interview broadcast on Fox affiliate KDFW, in which she allegedly said the family was “non-responsive” to a city request to release records about the incident.
In granting Beck and TheBlaze’s motion, Judge Moore said the statements at issue are “constitutionally protected opinions” that are “not capable of defamatory meaning.”
“Bringing a lawsuit to stifle the free speech of TheBlaze parties collides with the established principle that ‘speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection,’” the motion stated.
“Plaintiffs’ defamation claims would erode the strong protections derived from those fundamental values, restrict the ‘breathing space’ constitutionally afforded the broadcast at issue, and abandon the First Amendment by placing off limits speech concerning both Ahmed’s arrest and the related issues of potential domestic terrorism and the protection of national security – matters of paramount public concern and importance.”
Beck and TheBlaze’s attorney, Michael Grygiel with Greenberg Traurig in Albany, N.Y., said in a statement that his clients are “pleased at the court’s faithful application of First Amendment principles pursuant to the Texas Citizen Participation Act, the very purpose of which is to protect freedom of speech by mandating the summary dismissal of unmeritorious defamation claims.”
Hanson said shutting down free speech is “anti-constitutional and un-American.”
“This ruling reaffirms our most fundamental liberty – the right to free expression – and punishes Mr. Mohamed and his allies for attempting to suppress ideas they oppose,” Hanson said in a statement Tuesday. “The Center for Security Policy will continue to stand firm against all attempts by individuals and groups like CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] that seek through lawfare and other means to prohibit any criticism of totalitarian Islamist doctrine and to brand as Islamophobes those who point out their efforts.”
Fox and Ferguson were dismissed from the lawsuit in December. Judge Moore granted their motion for Mohamed to pay their $82,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses, but declined to sanction the plaintiffs.
Mohamed also has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against the city, school district and principal Daniel Cummings. His attorneys asked the city and Irving Independent School District to pay $15 million before filing suit.
Beck, a well-known right-wing conspiracy theorist, took a sharp turn recently and has publicly apologized for the “harm” he did through his years of well-publicized rants against liberals.