Libel and Legalistic Bullying
Whether you’re new to Quiche Moraine because you’re curious or follow one of the main cobloggers here on Twitter or Facebook, chances are good you’ve seen the words “libel” and “defamation” floating around very recently. Here’s the scoop.
On Tuesday, I received an email from Mike’s first wife, Shelly Leitheiser.
I have sent this to Greg Laden but I suppose I should send it to you too.
You have a situation of libel on your blog written by Mike Haubrich. I don’t intend to let this go until the posts mentioning me are removed. I intend to take legal action if the lies he wrote are not removed.
Are you the editor of the Quiche Moraine blog? If so, or if you know who is, I’d like to request the removal of the posts Mike Haubrich wrote where he talks about his “first wife” and how she was so terrible to him, cheated on him, was undiagnosed mentally ill, etc. etc.
No one should have to tolerate (damaging) lies about themselves on a blog if it’s hosted by someone else who is editor. I couldn’t do anything about the lies on his own blog but it looks like he took care of that himself due to someone else complaining.
If you want your blog to have credibility, and it’s fairly well-known, then you should remove these false and slanderous remarks about me that he has incorporated into his fantasy writing about his past.
There was more, but it’s all about her marriage to Mike, so I won’t share it with you. I think it was inappropriate to share with me, particularly if she thought I was Mike’s boss at Quiche Moraine. It’s also inappropriate, of course, to send such an email to Greg instead of me if she thinks that Quiche Moraine has that kind of editor. I pointed out that it doesn’t in my response (corrected so as not to accuse Shelly publicly of something she didn’t do).
While I edit Quiche Moraine, I do not exercise editorial control over the content of my co-bloggers’ posts. I edit only for punctuation, spelling and the occasional infelicitous turn of phrase, and there is a great deal of correspondence and edit history to back that up. With respect to legal responsibility, Quiche Moraine is no different than any of Mike’s other blogs, over which you have not previously seen fit to try to exercise control. Any problems that you have with Mike’s posts are problems that you should take up with Mike.
I assume, although you were not specific in your demands, that you were referring to the post on which you left the comment and Mike’s post regarding charity. I suggested as much when I forwarded your email on to Mike. I also told him I didn’t see anything in those posts that rose above opinion and, thus, into the realm of libel. Mike decided, however, on slight changes to wording to make it even more clear that his statements reflect only his opinion of you. That has been done.
Your comment makes reference to retractions. While we can put a retraction on the front page of Quiche Moraine stating that those posts have been edited to clarify that his statements reflect only his opinion of you, I presume that you will not want that done. After all, Quiche Moraine, your statements about reputation aside, is a small blog and was even smaller when those posts were published. Adding a retraction would only serve to draw attention to Mike’s opinion of you and to you partially identifying yourself in the comments.
Note that commenting on an old post on a blog with a recent comments widget is one of the best ways to draw attention to it. Your comment was, by sheer accident, held in moderation until it would no longer appear on the widget. Otherwise, you would have pointed readers to a post that no one but you had read in the last month.
Given all the points above, I consider this matter closed and don’t expect to hear from you again. I do, however, expect you to understand that accusations of libel are serious matters that also fall under defamation law, per se. The comment that you made on Quiche Moraine has been removed for that reason, and I expect the comments you made elsewhere accusing Quiche Moraine of libel to be removed promptly.
Were we done after making the changes? Well, no.
You missed my point. I wasn’t asking you, I was telling you to remove libelous content about me from your blog. I already have a lawyer who has told me I have a solid case of libel. This post in particular:
[incorrect link removed]
is clearly libelous to me. It contains serious lies about me and it is presented as fact, which is certainly is not. It does not clarify that it’s his opinion, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because what he wrote in that post and others are lies about me. Do you get it? I’m sure if someone did the same to you, you would be pissed off and incredulous as well. What is wrong with a person who has to write about something that happened 25 years ago? But what he wrote about me was intended to hurt me NOW, in the present day. This is typical of his personality.
As I explained, he uses his real name and anyone will know who he was talking about. The length of time that has passed since originally wrote is completely irrelevant, anything can be googled as you well know. His comments about me are completely false and obviously done with malice. His posts contain direct lies that reflect on my character and contain outright false information that could easily negatively impact my reputation.
I don’t intend to drop this and if you do not remove that post and others like it by him, and if you don’t remove the libelous content (and I have NO problem using that legal term, as I know exactly what it means) then I will. You are the editor of that blog so it is YOUR content legally, not Mike’s. I have a legal background, FYI, and it’s obvious you don’t.
You are at fault here, and your silly mention of libel being a serious charge is correct. You’re damn right it is, and I take it 100% seriously. I expect you to remove all posts of his mentioning me in a negative light, lying about me, and fantasizing that I did anything “bad” to him. ALL of them. I demand it.
I asked her to tell me exactly what she wanted changed. She pointed at this post. She made one objection that didn’t seem unreasonable, so another change was made to the wording and another opportunity for a front-page retraction presented. However, that wasn’t the only thing she objected to.
Another is this:
“the way she’d betrayed me” That didn’t happen either. Another lie.Any mention of his belief of my mental state or how I’m at fault in that marriage is libel. Any claim I harmed him is libel. It’s the very definition of it. [...] Why would anyone have to still discuss a breakup that is 25 years old? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? I had forgotten my past with him a long time ago and I can’t imagine why he can’t move on and stop writing about me. It’s astounding and it makes me furious that he’s still dredging up this old shifting of blame on his part. You have no idea how he hurt ME, but I’m sure as hell not going to write about it. Why would I? I have a good life and have been happily married for 22 years. I never think about Mike, and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t found that he was still writing BS about me.
Remove these posts, and let me know when it’s done. This matter is not settled until all his writings of me in a negative light are gone. I’ll give you a few days to get it done. Then I’m meeting with my lawyer again.
I think the post is pretty clear on the relevance of the first marriage, particularly as the mention is so brief.
“Betrayal,” like any reference to your mental state at the time, is clearly opinion. It doesn’t indicate any specific behavior, simply an opinion that you did not meet the expectations set out in the relationship, whatever they may have been. As I have stated before, Mike is entitled to publication of his opinion of you. That you don’t like it, or even that you disagree with his opinion, does not rise to the level of defamation, as you should know with your legal background.
Now, when can I expect that you will address your public accusations of libel?
You can, perhaps, guess the answer to that question.
This is my last request that all references to me, all his nasty inferences, all his ridiculous claims and lies about me be REMOVED, which includes the paragraph I sent you and any other nasty references to me or his perception of my health.
Your blog is public. This is not his private journal. Set your blog on “private” and I won’t mind what he writes about me.
Or, if not,
If you feel that he can write whatever he wants about me then you must feel I can write whatever I want about you, or about him, which according to your logic, I now have permission to do where ever I want. According to you, everyone is entitled to any opinion they want, and can write it anywhere they want with no repercussions. As long as it’s opinion, it cannot rise to the level of defamation.
Or, you can remove the libelous things he has written.
Mike is entitled to “publication of his opinion of you”, according to you. So that gives me implied permission to publish whatever opinions I have too. Great!
You have until Monday to remove his BS about me, or I will feel free to share with the world my facts and opinions about him, which I have a right to do, and I will not hold back anything. Since I don’t use my real name online, I’ll feel free to use his. Yeah, there might be something to this “opinion” sharing.
So much for the lawyer. Something tells me they don’t suggest this as a legal strategy. Still, she’s got the right. But only as long as she gets it right.
Well, Shelly, I think this makes it clear that the legal definition of libel isn’t your concern here. I’d suggest you be very careful and seek legal advice before publishing anything about Quiche Moraine, me or Mike, as you’ve done an excellent job in this correspondence of documenting both your intent to harm Mike and me and your inability to distinguish between factual assertions and opinion. You’ve also provided a tie between anonymous assertions about either of us on the internet and your intent to harm.
In fact, I should make you aware, although you should be aware of this already, that none of this correspondence is in any way private. Not your threats or your inconsistent pseudolegalistic attempt at coercion.
Good luck to you.
And then it gets weird.
You have taken this to a ridiculous level from my original request and now you are harassing me.
Nope, I have no intent to harm anyone, just to prove my legal point. Harm and libel was Mike’s intent, which is what I documented. It’s also his clear intent from what he wrote on YOUR blog, which is your legal obligation. Your intent by not removing his comments about me is that YOU intend to do harm to me also. You have made that very clear.
And your correspondence has not been private either. I’m sharing it with quite a few people and I’ll be sharing it with a lot more very soon.
You told me Mike has the right to publish his opinion of me and I do also of him, of you and of your blog. As I said, you have until Monday to change your mind.
Mike’s intent from the beginning was to harm me and he has committed libel, but that’s because you have published it. I have every right in the world to write anything I want about you and him and QM as a result. It’s my opinion, which you said is not defamation. No opinion, according to you, is defamation. The “legal definition” is what I sent to you, but you have said published opinion is perfectly fine with you.
I don’t have to seek legal advice, I already have. I have every right to share my opinion of you, of Mike, of QM and reprint any and all of your emails in any public venue I choose to.
If you want to both be assholes, after I have been very clear and polite, that’s fine with me. I’m done corresponding with you and from now on will do exactly as I choose. It’s not my problem if you don’t like my opinions, but you have made your intentions very clear.
Tell Mike I’ll be writing a lot this weekend, it should be interesting to revisit some of the fun I had while in the company of a total sociopath/asshole.
Of course, Shelly hasn’t been waiting. The same day she sent the original emails, this appeared on a blog-rating site.
She (or someone using her IP) has left two comments here badmouthing the blog and Mike and a comment at Lousy Canuck calling Mike a liar and wondering, “Why wish him a happy anything?”–all moderated but saved. And her Twitter stream has been all about me and Quiche Moraine for much of this evening.
All in all, it’s been an interesting day. I’ve mediated changes (Shelly didn’t want to talk to Mike) to protect someone else’s reputation and seen mine attacked for my troubles. I’ve replied to something demanding a response, only to be accused of harassment. I’ve seen thousands of words written about a paragraph. And as I mentioned, it’s not even Monday yet.
So if you see a strange comment attacking Mike or Quiche Moraine floating around on one of the sites that mention us, let me know. They’re trophies at this point, but they may be very useful later. And if you’re trying to sort this all out, I recommend this information from the Electronic Freedom Foundation.
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 11:29 pm and is filed under Stephanie Zvan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.