No “Accusation of Racism” Exception from Principle That Parody Isn’t Defamation
From Corso Ventures LLC v. Paye, decided Tuesday by the Ohio Court of Appeals (Judge Betsy Luper Schuster, joined by Judges William Klatt and Jullia Dorrian (affirming the decision I blogged about here):
Jordan … publishes the website DelawareOhioNews.com. Jordan writes articles and other content published on the website, often using the pen name Ricardo Paye. Jordan characterizes the website as a “satirical website” that publishes fictional stories to “poke fun” at issues of local or national interest. The website contains an “about us” section that states:
Delaware Ohio News is an online news and content source dedicated to Delaware, Ohio. Founded in the year 1808, we strive to be Delaware’s premier news source, second only to the illustrious Delaware Gazette. Although we were the first Delaware, Ohio newspaper, they remain the lords of Delaware news media. That’s why we’re suicidal and on so many drugs.
With all of that said, everything on this website is made up. Do not rely on anything said here.
Don’t believe us? Read our Legal Statements.
The Legal Statement section of the website contains the following statement:
All stories herein are parodies (satire, fiction, fake, not real) of people and/or actual events. All names are made up (unless used in a parody of public figures) and any similarity is purely coincidental.
DelawareOhioNews.com is not affiliated with Ohio Wesleyan University or any other publication.
DelawareOhioNews.com is intended for use by those age 18 and older. If you think your child can handle this humor, it is up to you. We are not role models.
In January 2020, Jordan saw a story on the local news that Short North Food Hall, a restaurant in Columbus, had established a dress code prohibiting certain articles of clothing and accessories. Jordan described the dress code as prohibiting numerous articles of clothing associated with Black culture. The news report identified Corso Ventures as the parent company of Short North Food Hall and stated that Christopher Corso owned the restaurant. In response to the local news report, Jordan wrote and published three articles on his website with the following titles: “Corso Ventures’ Newest Bar, Nigghers, Coming to Short North This Fall,'”Short North Food Hall Literally Just Googled ‘How to Keep Black People Out of Bars,'” and “White Wednesdays at Short North Food Hall.” Those articles appeared on the website surrounded by other headlines that Jordan characterizes as satirical, including “Socially Distanced July 4th Parade Will be 86 Miles Long, Last 40 Hours,” “Health Department: Please Cover Your Dog’s Anus to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus,” “VA Patients to Share Prosthetics After Kasich Denies Funds,” and “Ohio Gov. John Kasich Legalizes Exhumation of Confederate Soldiers Statewide.” …
Plaintiffs sued for libel, but the appellate court (agreeing with the trial court) held defendant’s speech was a parody as a matter of law, and thus wasn’t the sort of factual assertion that could be adjudged defamatory:
The question here is whether the articles Jordan authored and published on the website were parody and, therefore, protected speech. Appellants argue it i
Article from Reason.com