In a court action this week, attorneys for MSNBC host Rachel Maddow asked a federal judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Bradlee Dean, a former Christian rocker turned anti-gay preacher, on the grounds that it was a deliberate attempt to censor and/or intimidate Maddow by subjecting her to the burdens of defending against a meritless claim. The legal vehicle for this petition is known as SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation).
In Dean’s complaint he alleged that Maddow had defamed him when she broadcast a segment on his commentary on Islam and homosexuality. It’s not surprising that he should consider his own words to be tantamount to defamation. Here is the whole statement by Dean with the parts Maddow quoted in bold:
“Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America, this was just released yesterday and it shows you that they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo Christian God. They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination. And I continually reach out to the homosexual communities on this radio show, and I warn them, which ones love? Here you have Obama condemning it behind the backs of the homosexuals but to their faces he’s promoting it. I say this to my gay friends out there the ones that continuously nitpick everything I say. Hollywood is promoting immorality and the God of the Heavens in Jesus names is warning you to flee from the wrath to come, yet you have Muslims calling for your execution. If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that’s what you’re seeing in America today. Read Leviticus 26 America.”
There is little leeway for any interpretation other than that Dean was praising the moral superiority of extremist Muslims who advocated executing homosexuals. He even went further to offer his Biblical analysis that radical Islamists were fulfilling the will of God by attacking the United States. While Dean made a disclaimer that he was not calling for the execution of gays, it was an irrelevant gesture. No one had accused him of calling for executions, just for saying that Muslims were doing so and that they were “more moral” as a result.
Maddow’s response to the suit was that she had not defamed Dean because she had reported factually and that her comments were constitutionally protected speech. The facts appear to support her position. It would be surprising if this suit were permitted to go forward. But even Dean should hope that the judges dismisses the suit. Could he really want to generate more publicity for his views that he is now characterizing as harmful to his reputation?