By: E&P Staff
Editorial cartoonist Ted Rall has decided not to take legal action against columnist Ann Coulter for falsely claiming that Rall had entered Iran’s Holocaust-cartoon contest.
Both the liberal Rall and the conservative Coulter are with Universal Press Syndicate.
Rall had discussed with attorneys whether a lawsuit against Coulter had a good chance to succeed, and had also sought pledges from readers to help fund the possible legal action (see E&P Online stories from Feb. 13, Feb. 16, and March 13, 2006). It would have been a slander and libel suit, because Coulter made the Holocaust-cartoon-contest remark at a speaking engagement as well as in her column.
Why did Rall — who strongly denied Coulter’s insinuation that he’s anti-Semitic — opt not to take the columnist to court? He said in his blog that he had enough reader pledges to fund a suit, but that a victory was by no means guaranteed.
Rall wrote: “Months of research have forced me to conclude that, though a lawsuit against Coulter would certainly withstand initial challenges and motions to dismiss and might ultimately prevail through verdicts and subsequent appeals, the road ahead is too uncertain to justify spending thousands of dollars of pledges, not to mention my own money. Unlike [George W.] Bush, I don’t enter into battles I’m not certain of winning.”
He added: “More than ever, I believe that Coulter’s attempts to assassinate my character are illegal as well as reprehensible. Unfortunately, she may have sufficiently muddied the waters with her toxic brand of commentary that she might be able to avoid a judgment against her by claiming First Amendment protection as a satirist. …
“The interesting legal conundrum for Coulter is that she would have had to testify either that (a) she intended her audience to believe I had entered the Iranian cartoon contest or (b) it was just a joke. She couldn’t cop to (a) without getting smacked with a libel and/or slander judgment. If she claimed (b), however, she’d be admitting that she is not, as she presents herself on Fox and other TV networks, a serious political analyst, but rather a comedienne — or an attempted one, anyway. …”
Rall, who also handles feature acquisition and development for United Media, concluded: “Look at the bright side, though — she could still go down for possible vote fraud!” That was a reference to Coulter allegedly voting illegally (in a precinct where she didn’t live) this February in Palm Beach, Fla.