New Republic faces defamation and invasion of privacy charges

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Conservative activist Paul Weyrich has filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages for defamation and invasion of privacy-false light against the New Republic magazine.

The suit alleges that an October 1997 article, “Robespierre of the Right: What I Ate at the Revolution,” is an example of “unfair reporting,” and has asked the magazine for a written retraction of 19 specific statements made by writer David Grann.

Among those targeted is a description of Weyrich's behavior: “Suddenly there was a volcano of screaming . . . he was spitting and frothing at the mouth. We were ready to get him a room next to [John] Hinckley.”

Weyrich's attorney, Larry Klayman, said: “This case is meant to protect the rights of all persons who deserve respect, decency and honest reporting in journalism. We want to serve as an example.”

Several staffers at New Republic—self-touted as America's best opinion magazine—told said they were not allowed to comment.

The “less-than-flattering” profile claims Weyrich and a growing number of conservatives want to keep the Republican Party pure even if that means killing it in the process.

“The trouble is that after 30 years of attacking government from the outside, the right cannot seem to maintain its stability on the inside,” the lawsuit states. “The habits of suspicion, pessimism, and antagonism run too deep. And nowhere do they run deeper than in Paul Weyrich—a man trying his hardest to destroy the very Republican establishment he spent his life building.”

According to the Washington Times, 11 days after the article appeared, Weyrich was forced to step down as president of National Empowerment Television (NET), a public affairs cable network he founded in 1993.

“The article was one in a series of articles which attacked conservatives
after Michael Kelly was fired as the editor of the [New Republic],” Klayman said in a written statement. “Kelly had been critical of the Clinton administration while at the helm of the New Republic. [Editor Martin] Peretz is reported to be a close friend of [Vice President] Al Gore.”

Klayman, who has not returned phone calls, calls the episode “an attempt to silence the movement and to effectively 'kill the messenger.'”