PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – A Providence restaurateur claims a radio talk show host defamed him on the air, calling him a “manipulative piece of garbage” who can “kiss my Irish ass,” and accusing him of “us(ing) a mob tactic” to try to control reporting. The eruption came because Deejay Dan Yorke accused Robert Burke of asking that comments at an annual lunch for state lawmakers be off the record.
Burke claims the request that comments be off the record came from the former Speaker of the Rhode Island House, William Murphy. The “Murphy’s Law Luncheon” was held at Burke’s restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day, 2009.
According to Burke’s Superior Court complaint, co-defendant Providence Journal reporter Katherine Gregg wrote an article about the luncheon, unfairly attributing the off-the-record policy to Burke.
Burke claims that Gregg Wrote: “In Rhode Island House Speaker William J. Murphy and his host – restaurateur and frequent State House vendor Robert Burke, banned reporters from disclosing what Murphy had to say at what was billed as the fourth annual Murphy’s Law Luncheon. … One of the hoped-for side effects of the event is to lessen the polarization that has become rife in our politics, Burke said in a recent exchange of e-mails. He said he imposed the off-the-record rule because he felt a former Journal columnist took a Murphy quip about homosexuals, at an earlier St. Patrick’s Day lunch, out of context … creating an impression of the event as mean-spirited.”
After the Journal article was published, Yorke slammed Burke in a long rant. Burke alleges that these statements, and others, defamed him: “You piece of garbage. Rhode Island needs an enema and it ought to start with Bob Burke. … Here is how influence is gained. This is a good exercise. Influence is gained by threat. That is a mob tactic that Bob Burke used on me. That’s a mob tactic. Do you understand that? That’s a mob tactic and I don’t have a single, single problem saying it. It’s a mob tactic. Threat, coercion, intimidation. …
“And stupid Bob Burke. He’s too stupid. He’s a stupid person. He’s too stupid to understand that I don’t have a problem with the event. I have a problem with the gag order.”
“You punk, mob type actor. You B mob actor, Bob Burke. … Like I’m going to wobble and fall over … You punk!”
Burke claims that Yorke and Gregg defamed him by falsely accusing him of asking that the comments be off the record. He says their reports hurt his business and reputation. He also sued the Providence Journal and Citadel Radio.
Burke is represented by John Mahoney with Asquith and Mahoney.