(CN) – It’s been over the decade since “American Idol” gave Corey Clark the boot from its 2002-03 season amid reports that he failed to disclose an arrest history, but controversy over that ejection lives on in the California superior court where Clark is suing Radar Online for defamation.
With Clark also purporting to have had a sexual relationship with then “Idol” judge Paul Abdul while on the show, the former contestant was a natural fit for Radar’s 2014 article “35 Biggest Idol Controversies.”
Clark sued the website for libel earlier this year, however, because he said the article misrepresented the nature of the arrest that Fox uncovered in 2003.
Though the battery charges against Clark from that arrest were dismissed, and though Clark’s sister has denied allegations that the she was the target of that alleged battery, Radar reported that Clark beat the girl up, according to an amended version of Clark’s complaint.
Clark says Radar spread the misinformation because it was miffed at him for denying it exclusive access to his story back in 2013.
Radar meanwhile tried to strike Clark’s claims for libel and false light/invasion of privacy under California’s anti-SLAPP law, short for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
Judge Elizabeth White kept Clark’s case alive on May 7, saying fair-report privilege does not protect Radar’s article.
“Here, the publication was not a fair and true report of plaintiff’s arrest history because no mention was made of the fact that the battery charges had been dismissed,” she wrote. “Instead, the article was for entertainment value regarding ‘American Idol,’ which had nothing to do with a judicial, legislative or public official proceeding, nor a charge or complaint made to a public official.”
Clark applauded the ruling in a phone interview.
“I was extremely elated,” Clark said. “I was satisfied to see that the Los Angeles Superior Court judge actually took the time to look at the facts of the situation and the case and came to a conclusion on the facts, and not the media hype and public hyperbole.”
Reporting like Radar’s has created difficulties in both Clark’s private and professional life, he said.
The singer called Radar Online’s reporting irresponsible because he says it knew that there was no truth to the claim that he beat up his sister.
“The defendants attempted to use the First Amendment as both a sword and a shield,” he said. “The purpose of the First Amendment is to give people the right to publish and have the freedom to speak their mind, not to go out and ruin someone’s life purposely and maliciously and knowingly. That’s irresponsible, it’s unethical and it’s immoral.”
White’s ruling concludes that Clark “made a sufficient showing that the truth is that although he was arrested for battery, he was not convicted, and the battery charge against plaintiff was dismissed.”
“As such, it would appear that ‘American Idol’ disqualified plaintiff for purportedly failing to disclose his arrest to producers – a violation of the show’s rules – rather than because he ‘beat up’ his sister – a crime,” the eight-page decision states. “Imputing the commission of a crime is defamatory on its face and would constitute libel per se.”
Clark also affirmed in the interview that he “100 percent” stands by earlier remarks about a romance with Paula Abdul, saying the relationship lasted about three or four months.
The singer added that his plans to contact Abdul soon for a deposition in his federal suit against E! Network.
With “Idol” slated to go off the air after its 15th season, Clark called it “bittersweet.”
“I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you guys if it wasn’t for the show, and I also feel like, if it wasn’t for the show, I wouldn’t have the complications that I’m currently fighting and trying to remedy,” Clark said. “It’s a double-edged sword for me.”
Clark’s case against Radar is scheduled for a case-management conference on Aug. 20.
Judge White’s May 7 ruling denied Clark attorneys’ fees related to the anti-SLAPP motion because that attempt to strike was not frivolous.
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