April 16, 2008
Obama’s YouTube Accuser Has No Grounds For Defamation Suit, Public Citizen Says
Internet Critics Have Right to Speak Anonymously About Accuser’s Past
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Minnesota man who made several outrageous claims about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a YouTube video has made himself a public figure and cannot sue an anonymous critic for defamation, Public Citizen told the man’s attorney today.
Public Citizen asked Washington, D.C. attorney Montgomery Blair Sibley to dismiss his client’s suit and withdraw a subpoena that seeks information to identify “mzmolly,” a person who posted critical comments about Sibley’s client on the Web site DemocraticUnderground.com. Public Citizen represents mzmolly and Democratic Underground.
Sibley’s client, Larry Sinclair, caused a stir on the Internet this year when he posted a YouTube video about an alleged encounter with Obama in 1999. The story was picked up by several Web sites and by the tabloid magazine, the Globe.
In a letter faxed to Sibley, Public Citizen argues that not only does Sinclair not show that he has grounds for a defamation suit, but that the federal court in Washington, D.C. has no jurisdiction in the case. Sibley, who made headlines last year by representing the “D.C. Madam,” has not shown that he can overcome mzmolly’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously, said Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy.
Besides seeking public attention, Sinclair has also been very forthcoming about his background. Sinclair told the Globe that he was a convicted felon who was involved in credit card fraud, drug-dealing and smuggling illegal aliens.
“It’s hard to believe that anything our clients could say about Mr. Sinclair could do further harm to his reputation,” Levy said. “Larry Sinclair got his 15 minutes of fame and – with it – he has to accept the First Amendment right of others to criticize his actions.”
To read the letter sent to Sibley, go to https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/demunderground.pdf.
Public Citizen is a national nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.