DALLAS (CN) – Comedian and radio host Rickey Smiley may have defamed an airport security guard by calling him gay on “The Rickey Smiley Show,” a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor refused to dismiss the guard’s defamation claims against the Dallas radio personality.
The security guard, Henry Robinson, had apparently irked Smiley by trying to take his picture with Smiley twice. Robinson claimed that on his second request for a picture, Smiley began calling him “the gay security guard” and “faggot.”
Not long after, on Dallas station 97.9 “The Beat,” Smiley used his show to make fun of “the gay security guard” at Dallas Love Field Airport. According to the ruling, the broadcast included “a poem about ‘Henry, Henry’ who ‘sure act[s] gay,’ off-color humor about ‘Henry’s’ duties in conducting personal searches, an admonition to ‘Henry’ to stop taking pictures, and a laughing ‘Sorry, Henry!'”
Robinson complained that people started calling him gay after the show aired.
Rickey Smiley and Radio One, owner of 97.9 “The Beat,” moved to dismiss the defamation claim, saying the show was not defamatory because it was satire and could not be taken as fact.
Judge O’Connor disagreed with the satire argument, ruling that a reasonable person could take Smiley’s comments at face value and assume Robinson was gay. And because Robinson “denies that he is homosexual,” Smiley’s statements were a false statement of fact, O’Connor ruled.
He added that the broadcast could be considered defamatory because, in Texas, calling someone homosexual “imputes the crime of sodomy.”
Though the Supreme Court decriminalized sodomy in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, O’Connor found “that the imputation of homosexuality might as a matter of fact expose a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”
O’Connor ruled that Radio One was not liable for the statements Smiley made at the airport, but the judge allowed Robinson to pursue his defamation claims over the on-air remarks.