Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

District Court Dismisses Invasion of Privacy Claim Against Wenner Media, Rolling Stone

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida has dismissed an invasion of privacy claim brought by Ben Mills against Wenner Media and Rolling Stone magazine for an article published in the October 20, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone. The article, entitled "Bush Like Me: Ten Weeks Undercover in the Grass Roots of the Republican Party," and written by Matt Taibbi, recounted Taibbi's meetings with various "lonely people" whom he had met during his "stint  with the Bush campaign". Mills objected to Taibbi's characterization of him in the article, particularly since Taibbi reproduced Mills' theories on the "benefits of having a society guarded by a clone army." Mills alleged that "[f]ollowing the publication of the article, [he] was subjected to ridicule by his family, friends and coworkers. For instance, coworkers circulated an e-mail with an attachment of Mills on a mock cover of a Rolling Stone with captions that included "Exclusive!, Ben Mills," "CLONING, does it work?," "We take you inside the mind of a MADMAN," and "America's Top 10 Portly Sheriff's Deputies." Mills subsequently filed this suit against Defendants seeking redress for mental suffering...."

After examining the four grounds under which one may sue for an invasion of privacy in Florida, and noting that the plaintiff did not identify which of the four he had selected, the court opined that he probably meant to select the publication of private facts tort. The court stated that "Mills' claim fails, first, because neither his physique nor his musings about the benefits of a clone army are private matters. Indeed, Mills shared his idea of a clone army with Taibbi--a stranger--outside the confines of his home. More importantly, Taibbi's article...clearly touches on matters of public concern." The court therefore granted the defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Read the court's decision here. Read Taibbi's Rolling Stone article here.

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