The lawyer for a Chicago-area radio host, whose airing of former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald’s words on a hot mic led to Macdonald’s firing, has filed a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit.
The attorney for WLS/AM 890 radio host Matthew Erich “Mancow” Muller — who was once a parishioner at HBC and former friend of MacDonald’s — has characterized a suit brought by MacDonald against his client as a “vindictive fishing expedition” and has moved for its dismissal.
Muller’s attorney, Michael J. Young, also alleged that the lawsuit was filed so that the former pastor, who led the multi-site megachurch for over 30 years before being ousted in February of last year, could continue living an opulent lifestyle.
MacDonald’s lawsuit claims that the radio host violated state laws pertaining to eavesdropping when Muller aired audio footage of comments MacDonald made while on a hot mic in which he was heard talking about planting child pornography on Christianity Today CEO’s Harold Smith’s computer, uttering crude remarks about independent investigative journalist Julie Roys — including joking that she had an affair with then-CT Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli — and making a vulgar reference to Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.
Young maintained that the law is on Muller’s side in light of the circumstances.
“Muller, a media member, was within his rights and obligations to hold Plaintiff up to public scrutiny, to share disturbing information about Plaintiff as he saw fit, and air the tape of Plaintiff’s own derogatory comments,” he wrote in a memorandum that was filed Friday.
“Muller’s opinions and statements may have been upsetting but were protected speech, privileged, or substantially true.”
He continued, “(I)mmediately after Muller made the complained of comments, (Muller) shared audiotape of Plaintiff making statement to others about putting child pornography on the computer of one of (MacDonald’s) critics.”
The attorney further argued that MacDonald’s expectation of privacy was “unreasonable,” because the footage was recorded “in a public building, in a room designed for recordings, in the presence of several people, and while on a speakerphone.”
Young cited as supporting evidence the 2001 ruling in Bartnicki v. Vopper, a Supreme Court precedent which held that First Amendment free speech protections extend to the broadcasting of secretly-taped recordings if the recording concerns a matter of public importance.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter