Saturday, September 26, 2015

Louisville Radio: WHAS 'Black Barney' Protected Speech

Longtime WHAS 840 AM personality Terry Meiners’ on-air statements about a police officer who had given him a speeding ticket in 2011 were “constitutionally protected,” the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Terry Meiners
Louisville Metro Police Officer Sam Cromity claimed in a March 2012 lawsuit that Meiners disparaged and lied about him on the air after being given a speeding ticket in March 2011.

In agreeing with a lower court’s dismissal of that defamation lawsuit, the appeals court ruled the statements “addressed an issue of public concern, specifically, the integrity of a local police officer.

“Since Meiners fully disclosed the facts supporting his opinion, and those facts are not provable as false, Meiners’ opinions are constitutionally protected.”

According to WDRB-TV41, Cromity claimed Meiners referred to him as "Black Barney" -- an apparent reference to Barney Fife, a caricature of a bumbling, imbecilic police officer" and Cromity's black vehicle, that he played belittling songs about the highway patrol, and called the officer a delusional "liar" who was irresponsible, reckless and dangerous.

A district court jury acquitted him of speeding.

In the appeal of the dismissed lawsuit, Cromity argued, in part, that he had been slandered, and it was up to Meiners to prove his statements were true.

Pence argued in court records that Meiners' comments were made during a "radio talk show given to robust, freewheeling and often intemperate discussions" and based on "nondefamatory facts fully disclosed to the listening audience."

Cromity accused Meiners of driving 75 mph in a 55-mph zone on the Watterson Expressway. The lawsuit claimed Meiners implied Cromity was confrontational and Meiners felt he would be arrested if he complained.

Meiners told jurors that the "Black Barney" reference had nothing to do with race but instead was a reference to Cromity's vehicle, a black Ford Mustang, and to the officer's notoriety in patrolling that area. Meiners said he created a character combining the outlaw Black Bart and Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show."

WHAS Radio, named as Clear Channel Communications, was also named as a defendant in the suit.

No comments:

Post a Comment