ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Group Alleges Former President Jimmy Carter Breached Contract by “Deceiving the Public”

As reported by Washington Post Political Bookworm blogger Steven Levingston, five purchasers of Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the former President and his publisher, Simon & Schuster. They allege that Carter’s 2006 book “is filled with demonstrable falsehoods, omissions, and knowing misrepresentations intended to promote Carter’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda.” As a  result, they claim, Carter committed breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligent and intentional misrepresentation, and violation of the New York Consumer Protection act

Palestine_peace_not_apartheid In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that Carter promoted his book as an accurate and truthful historical account, citing statements he made on Larry King Live and elsewhere to that effect.  The plaintiffs claim that they purchased Carter’s book “in reliance on Defendants’ representations that the events and agreements which are the subject of the book were described accurately, fully, and fairly…” These allegations are at odds with plaintiffs additional allegation that Carter’s “virulently anti-Israel bias” both “comes as no surprise” and is “well known” to the public."  Even if they had suspended their disbelief long enough to make their purchase, one would think Carter's title would have tipped off plaintiffs that the book expressed some views critical of Israeli policies.  

Plaintiffs attempt to document what they call a “pattern of factual inaccuracies” by going page by page through Carter’s book. For example, Carter writes on page 207 “Palestinian leaders unequivocally accepted this proposal [the Roadmap for Peace], but Israel has officially rejected its key provisions with unacceptable caveats and prerequisites.” However, Plaintiffs contend that although Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas did “verbally express his support” for the Roadmap for Peace, “there is no evidence that the Palestinian Authority cabinet ever approved the Roadmap or ratified it, as required for an international agreement between two governmental entities.” The Plaintiffs dedicate almost 15 pages of the complaint to detailing similar alleged inaccuracies, with topics ranging from compliance with United Nations resolutions to characterizations of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders..

A spokesperson for Simon & Schuster called the lawsuit “frivolous”, “without merit”, and a “chilling attack on free speech.” Plaintiffs, in their complaint, claim that this lawsuit is “not in any way an attempt to challenge Defendant Jimmy Carter’s right to write a book” but instead about Carter “deceiving the public.”

Carter’s book cost $27 when it was first published, but a careful reading of the complaint suggests that some of the plaintiffs listened to an audiobook version rather than buying the hardcover.  Those audiobooks can be pricey, but it's still a bit hard to see how plaintiffs got to the $5 million mark. 

Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim is quite straightforward.  They claim to have bought the book based on the defendants' representations of the book as factual and accurate.  As Lionel Hutz put it, "Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, 'The Never-Ending Story.'”

[Jon Kohlscheen & JT]

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