(CN) – The D.C. Superior Court dismissed a $20 million defamation suit brought against the nation’s most influential pro-Israel lobby by one of its former employees.
Steven Rosen worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as director of foreign policy issues for 23 years. According to a complaint filed in March 2009, Rosen’s job was to “maintain relationships with [governmental] agencies, receive [foreign policy] information, and share it with AIPAC Board of Directors and its senior staff for possible further distribution.”
In 2004, the Justice Department publicly announced an investigation of Rosen and another AIPAC employee for espionage. Both were indicted for illegally obtaining classified documents from a Pentagon official. The charges were dropped, but not before AIPAC had fired Rosen.
Rosen complaint claims that AIPAC fired him to curry favor with the Justice Department and avoid prosecution, even though its board “knew absolutely that [he] had done nothing wrong, indeed nothing which they had not known about and authorized.”
He further alleged that he had been humiliated when AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton told the New York Times that Rosen was dismissed because his behavior “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees.” The quote was reprinted nationwide.
Contending that such standards did not exist, Rosen said Dorton’s statement caused personal and professional humiliation, career damage, and financial losses.
Last year, AIPAC bolstered its misconduct claims by submitting in court that Rosen watched pornography on his office computer.
Judge Erik Christian granted summary judgment for AIPAC on Wednesday, finding that it would be impossible for a jury to determine whether the claim was factual.
“Inviting a jury to scrutinize and second-guess an employer’s policies and business judgment would effectively convert this garden-variety claim for defamation into one for wrongful termination or discrimination,” Christian wrote.
“The issue is the objective truth of AIPAC’s public statement concerning Rosen’s firing,” he continued. “It is on this limited issue that the court concludes that the statement is not probably false, and therefore, not defamatory as a matter of law.”
Rosen told the Washington Post that he would likely appeal the decision.