(CN) – A police officer in McAllen, Texas, lost his bid to revive a lawsuit accusing the mayor of defaming him by comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler on the radio. A Texas appeals court said governmental immunity shields the mayor from the officer’s claims.
McAllen Mayor Ricardo Cortez was a guest on Davis Rankin’s talk show on 710 AM to discuss issues between the city and police officers.
Officer Michael Zellers said Cortez compared him to Hussein and Hitler, despite knowing that Zellers is of German descent. He also said Cortez had the city publish advertisements that essentially accused Zellers of being a liar.
Cortez argued that his comments and the advertisements were protected by governmental immunity, because he had been acting in his official capacity as mayor.
The trial court sided with Cortez, and the Corpus Christi-based 13th District Texas Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
“Zellers’ petition only alleges claims for intentional torts — defamation, defamation per se, libel, libel per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Justice Nelda Rodriguez wrote. “Because Cortez is protected by governmental immunity and is therefore shielded from liability for intentional torts … we conclude that Zellers’ pleadings affirmatively negate the existence of jurisdiction.”