Principal Claims Daily News Defamed Him

     JAMAICA, N.Y. (CN) – A Catholic school principal claims in court that he was fired after the New York Daily News defamed him in a series of articles that falsely accused him of “white supremacist ties.”
     Frank Borzellieri sued the New York Daily News Co. and Daily News reporters Corinne Lestch and Larry McShane, in Queens County Supreme Court. He also sued his former co-workers Anne Marie Zagaglia and Connie Anestis, who allegedly made defamatory statements about him to Daily News reporters.
     Borzellieri was principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School from 2009 until last year, when he says he was fired because of a series about him in the Daily News. Mount Carmel is a predominantly black and Latino elementary school in the Bronx.
     Borzellieri claims that the first article, of July 31, 2011, falsely accused him of racial hatred and of ties to a white supremacist group. He claims the article called him a “principal of hate,” a “firebrand educator” and a “controversial principal” among other thing.
     Quoting from the July 31 article, the complaint states:
     “vi. Frank Borzellieri, 48, was quietly promoted to principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School two years ago …
     “vii. He has also written frequently for the white supremacist publication American Renaissance, with which he is still ‘intimately involved’…;
     “viii. Borzellieri’s views rankled teachers at St. Barnabas School in Woodlawn, Bronx, where he taught English from 2006 to 2009. ‘You can’t have someone with those beliefs or who writes that kind of stuff working at a Catholic school,’ said Annemarie Zagaglia, principal of St. Barnabas School during Borzellieri’s time there.
     “ix. When Rapaglia was the pastor of St. Barnabas, Zagaglia warned him that teachers had legitimate concerns about Borzellieri. She said Rapaglia ‘dismissed the whole thing, and that was the end of that.’
     “x. A former teacher at St. Barnabas said she alerted the Archdiocese of New York in 2007 that students had complained Borzellieri was using them as ‘research’ for his books, but the teacher never got a response.
     “xi. Parents of students at Mount Carmel voiced concern after the Daily News informed them of Borzellieri’s past. ‘I’ve heard kids say they don’t like him,’ said one mother, a Jamaican immigrant. ‘I was wondering where the heck he came from. He shouldn’t be teaching here. He could look at kids differently because they’re black. It’s not fair.'” (Ellipses in complaint).
     Borzellieri claims the article contained false and defamatory statements and falsely accused him of “race hatred and traits inconsistent with his profession.”
     He says it was widely read by students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators, and got him fired from Mount Carmel.
     Borzellieri claims the Daily News continued to defame him in follow-up articles published in August 2011.
     Quoting from an Aug. 2, 2011 article, the complaint states:
     “The aforesaid article contained false and defamatory matter wherein it stated:
     “i. The New York Archdiocese has launched an investigation into principal Frank Borzellieri’s white supremacist ties;
     “ii. The Archdiocese of New York has launched an internal probe into whether a Bronx principal’s ties to a white supremacist group have affected his work at an ethnically diverse elementary school;
     “iii. Church education officials began looking into Frank Borzellieri’s job performance after the Daily News revealed Sunday he has written books declaring America’s expanding black and Hispanic populations will create a ‘New Dark Age’;
     “iv. The News also revealed Borzellieri, who has been principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Fordham since 2009, has written for the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.”
     The complaint adds: “The aforesaid article contained false and defamatory matter wherein it stated:
     “i. Bronx Catholic School Principal Frank Borzellieri Fired Over Ties to White Supremacist Group;
     “ii. A Bronx parochial school principal was fired Tuesday from his post at a largely minority school after the Daily News exposed his writings for a white supremacist group;
     “iii. The dismissal of Frank Borzellieri from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in the Bronx became a black and white issue: His opinions were deemed ‘incompatible’ with Catholic teachings;
     “iv. The firing was quickly hailed by the ex-principal’s critics, including his old boss at another Catholic school. ‘I’m so glad I just can’t tell you,’ said Annemarie Zagaglia, former principal at St. Barnabas elementary school. ‘People are really happy’;
     “v. Zagaglia had warned the pastor at Mount Carmel about Borzellieri’s beliefs before he was hired in 2009 – but says she was ignored.
     “vi. ‘The fact that this man was allowed to be in this position even after other teachers complained is outrageous.’
     “vii. … Borzellieri was a frequent contributor to the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.
     “viii. … Borzellieri’s racist ties …” (Ellipses in complaint).
     Borzellieri also cites an Aug. 24, 2011 article in the Daily News:
     “The aforesaid article contained false and defamatory matter wherein it stated:
     “i. White Supremacist Principal Replaced by Fordham Professor at Bronx Parochial School;
     “ii. Frank Borzellieri, who made headlines in the 90s for racist and anti-gay slurs as a school board members [sic], was fired from his job as a Bronx principal after a Daily News piece;
     “iii. The Bronx parochial school that fired its principal after the Daily News exposed his ties to a white supremacist group has found a replacement;
     “iv. John Riley replaces Frank Borzellieri, who was canned last month for views about minorities deemed ‘incompatible’ with Catholic education standards;
     “Last month, the News revealed Borzellieri penned a 2004 book asserting ‘diversity is weakness’ and frequently contributed to the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.”
     Borzellieri says that in addition to getting him fired, the articles ruined his reputation and exposed him to ridicule.
     He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and negligence.
     He is represented by Frederick Kelly of Monroe, N.Y.

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