Gubernatorial Candidate Sues Newspaper for Libel

Gubernatorial candidate Lee Whitnum, who garnered headlines after police dragged her off a stage during a Democratic candidates’ forum in  April, has filed a defamation lawsuitagainst two reporters for the Stamford Advocate.

Whitnum is representing herself in the complaint, filed June 12 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut Tuesday.

Seeking a jury trial, Whitnum claims there were eight false or inaccurate statements made in a Sept. 11, 2013, Stamford Advocate article, titled “Former Congressional Candidate Charged With Stalking Judge.” The judge of note, Superior Court Judge Jane Emons, presided over Whitnum’s divorce.

The 58-year-old Greenwich resident and current Democratic candidate for governor claims the article was published “with a reckless and/or intentional disregard for the truth” and that it contained “information that was intended to and did portray the plaintiff as mentally unstable and other proven falsehoods.”

In a comment emailed to the Connecticut Law Tribune, Whitnum said she has filed about 10 lawsuits against different parties during the past decade, but she has not been taken seriously by Hearst reporters. “The reporters, at Hearst, have smeared me,” she wrote. “Every case I’ve filed, approximately ten, stands on its own merit but the public never hears about it. Hearst’s reporters dismiss and discredit me as litigious, so that they never have to cover the gravamen.”

Whitnum added that stories have been “twisted” by reporters “to make me look crazy, ridiculous, stupid. I can do no right in their eyes.”

In court documents, Whitnum claims reporters did not speak to her prior to writing ”an article that contained false facts about Whitnum and attributed to Whitnum an imaginary series of events and charges that were incorrect and implied defendants had spoken to Whitnum, but they never did.”

The reporters, Daniel Tepfer and John Nickerson, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The lawsuit also names Hearst President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Swartz as a defendant. Hearst Communications owns the Advocate. The company’s spokeswoman, Sheila O’Shea, did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more here