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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Political Satire Shields Anti-Birther Blog Post

(CN) - Two leaders of the birther movement cannot sue Esquire Magazine for publishing a satirical article announcing plans to recall and pulp their new book, the D.C. Circuit ruled.

Three weeks after President Barack Obama released his long-form birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii, the editor-in-chief of the conservative website WorldNetDaily published a book titled "Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barak Obama Is not Eligible to Be President," written by Jerome Corsi.

WorldNetDaily announced: "It's out! The book that proves Obama's ineligible: Today's the day Corsi is unleashed to tell all about that 'birth certificate.'"

In response, journalist Mark Warren published a parody article on Esquire Magazine's politics blog. Its headline read "BREAKING: Jerome Corsi's Birth Book Pulled from Shelves!"

The article stated in part that WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah had announced plans one day after the Corsi release "to recall and pulp the entire 200,000 first printing run of the book, as well as announcing an offer to refund the purchase price to anyone who has already bought ... the book."

Esquire updated the article 90 minutes later, clarifying that, "for those who didn't figure it out," the article was meant as satire.

Warren also told The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, that he had "no regrets" about posting the parody, and referred to Corsi as an "execrable piece of shit."

Farah and Corsi sued for defamation, but a federal judge dismissed the case, finding Warren's article protected political satire, and his statements protected opinion.

The D.C. Circuit affirmed last week, concluding that a reasonable reader would not have taken the blog post literally.

"Reasonable readers of 'The Politics Blog' would recognize the prominent indicia of satire in the Warren article," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for a three-judge panel. "Most notably, the very substance of the story would alert the reasonable reader to the possibility that the post was satirical. The essence of the fictitious story was that Farah, a self-described leader (along with Corsi) of the movement to challenge President Obama's eligibility to serve, had suddenly and without any warning decided to recall and 'pulp' the Corsi book the very day after it was released. It is inconceivable that Farah would reverse course so abruptly, as Esquire's fictitious story claimed." (Parentheses in original.)

There were also a number of unprofessional attributions and humorous quotations, such as "we don't want to look like fucking idiots, you know?" that signaled the satirical nature of the article to readers.

Likewise, Esquire's update and Warren's statements to the Daily Caller are protected.

"The 'update' and Warren's comments used strong rhetoric and salty language, but were nonetheless public statements on an issue of national concern; such speech lies at the heart of the First Amendment," the 23-page opinion states.

Warren's reference to Corsi as an "execrable piece of shit," is clearly his personal opinion as it "does not appear to convey any factual assertion, but is rather 'the sort of loose, figurative or hyperbolic language which would negate the impression' that a factual statement was being made," Brown wrote (emphasis in original).

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