Could Diddy Story Cost LA Times Libel Damanges? Maybe Not
As we previously discussed here, attorney Howard Weitzman has been hinting that client Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has a good defamation case against the LA Times for its now-discredited story implicating him in an assault on rapper Tupac Shakur. We were curious how such a case might play out, so we checked in with top media attorney Douglas Mirell of Loeb & Loeb. Mirell, who often represents media companies, isn't so sure about a claim.
Times reporter Chuck Philips relied on FBI reports that now appear to be a forgery. According to Mirell, though, the "fair report privilege" would apply to Philips' story as long as it is a fair and accurate report of the contents of the documents. Combs would only have a libel claim if "there are other allegations [in the story] that don't stem from the documents," Mirell tells us.
As for "actual malice," the legal standard for defamation claims brought by public figures like Diddy, Mirell notes that Philips has said he checked the authenticity of the documents with a retired FBI agent, who said they appeared legitimate. "That could go to a defense that the Times didn't publish in bad faith and with a reckless disregard for the truth," Mirell says.