A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday against the founder of a political gossip Web site who reprinted sexually explicit material about the sex lives of two Senate aides.
Ana Marie Cox, the founder and former editor of Wonkette.com, commented on and provided links to a Web blog created in 2004 by Jessica Cutler, an aide to then-Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. DeWine lost his re-election bid last November.
Cutler’s blog, called the “Washingtonienne,” discussed her sex life with several men, including colleague Robert Steinbuch, DeWine’s counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When Cox drew attention to Cutler’s blog, Steinbuch said he was humiliated and left Washington for a teaching job in Arkansas. He sued Cutler in 2005 and last year added Cox to the suit.
Cox, who is now the Washington editor of Time.com, argued that blogs such as Wonkette cannot be held liable for material they reprint. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman did not address that issue because he said Steinbuch sued too late.
“The question is whether or not he has the right to add Ms. Cox more than two years after the events in question when the statute of limitations is one year,” Friedman said.
After being fired from her Senate job, Cutler moved back to New York, wrote a novel based on the scandal, posed nude for Playboy and started a Web site. The suit against her continues.
That case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline.
It is unclear when the case will go to trial. Each side is embroiled in thorny pretrial issues, demanding personal information from the other.
Friedman, who expressed surprise the suit was filed, said again Wednesday he hoped both sides could found middle ground and perhaps even settled the case.