Lawyers who allege in a suit that the CBS program "60 Minutes" contained defamatory comments about a Georgia poultry farm's alleged connection with terrorist financing want a federal appeals court in Washington to overturn the dismissal of the suit.
Last month, Judge Rosemary Collyer of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the suit Mar-Jac Poultry brought against CBS and a woman featured on the show, Rita Katz, a self-described terrorist hunter. Katz, a professional researcher, has fed tips to federal authorities about alleged terrorist financing.
On the CBS program, which aired in May 2003, Katz used a fictitious name and appeared in disguise. The poultry farm’s name is not mentioned on the broadcast but its name is displayed. Mar-Jac’s suit against CBS and Katz in Washington federal district court has been pending since 2003.
In her ruling in March granting summary judgment for CBS and Katz, Collyer said “no reasonable jury could find that Ms. Katz’s statements about laundering money through misreporting dead chickens were anything but rank speculation, surmise or hyperbole, engendered, perhaps, by her thrill at being involved in an undercover capacity.”
Mar-Jac’s lawyers, who have filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said they don’t think the CBS program’s producers and the show’s viewers “thought 60 Minutes was broadcasting ‘rank speculation’ or ‘hyperbole.’”
“To the contrary, the program has a reputation for broadcasting facts,” said Nancy Luque of Washington’s Luque Marino, the firm that represents Mar-Jac.“This finding by the court poses a dilemma for CBS: can the network let this judgment about one of its premier news program stand?”
A lawyer for CBS, Lee Levine of Washington’s Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, was not immediately reached for comment this morning about the appeal. The D.C. Circuit has not said whether it will hear the case.