FULANI v. NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY


260 A.D.2d 215 (1999)

686 N.Y.S.2d 703

LENORA B. FULANI, Appellant, v. NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY et al., Respondents.

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, First Department.

Decided April 13, 1999.


Plaintiff, concededly a public figure, claims that she was defamed by the subject newspaper article, which, after identifying her as a coordinator of the Independence Party's candidate's then ongoing campaign for a local public office, described her as "of the New Alliance Party [NAP], a political group that has been accused by former members of acting like a cult". The statement that plaintiff was "of the NAP" was not defamatory, even assuming that defendants knew that the NAP was dissolved two years earlier, since the statement's "gist" or "sting", i.e., that plaintiff was currently a member of the NAP, could not have had a different or worse effect on the mind of a reasonable reader than the truth, i.e., that plaintiff was a longtime member, ex-chair and two-time Presidential candidate of the now defunct NAP (see, Masson v New Yorker Mag., 501 U.S. 496, 517; Jewell v NYP Holdings, 23 F.Supp.2d 348, 366). Nor could a reasonable reader have understood the statement attributed to former NAP members that NAP was a cult-like group to be "of and concerning plaintiff". While plaintiff was described as "of the NAP", the words "acting like a cult" refer to the NAP, not to plaintiff, who is not in any manner distinguished from any other members of that group (see, Provisional Govt. v American Broadcasting Cos., 609 F.Supp. 104, 108; Anyanwu v Columbia Broadcasting Sys., 887 F.Supp. 690, 692-693, citing, inter alia, Gross v Cantor, 270 N.Y. 93).


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