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Jessica Simpson’s lawyers are hopping mad over an article published in OK! magazine entitled “Jessica Dumped!” that claimed Dallas Cowboys QB/boyfriend Tony Romo had ended their romantic relationship and Simpson’s sister, Ashlee, has made efforts to “distance herself” from Jessica.
John Rosenberg, Simpson’s attorney at Rosenberg & Giger, sent a scathing cease-and-desist letter to OK! Editor-in-Chief Sarah Ivens demanding a retraction and admonishing the publication for “public gossip-mongering.”
“Your publication’s effort to damage Ms. Simpson’s romantic and familial relationships and erode her public standing through the dissemination of un-attributed and false rumor is not only unseemly, it is actionable as defamation per se…” writes Rosenberg.
Simpson’s lawyer also warns OK! not to hide behind First Amendment protection by “couching its ‘stories’ in terms of rumor, gossip, and the repetition of unattributed accusations of others” by pointing to several federal cases where the judge determined that repeating rumors from others was not a shield to libel.
That might be true, but many of the cases cited in the letter refer to the judicial decision not to toss the suit on summary judgment. They don’t prove the defamation standard, and as a public figure, Simpson will have to show actual malice or reckless disregard of the falsity of the publication’s statements.
At first impression, Simpson’s case doesn’t seem to be any stronger than any other celebrity whose alleged dirty laundry winds up in a gossip publication, but perhaps Rosenberg can scare the publishers from prospective legal costs defending a suit, or at least, warn Ivens to stay away from his client in the future.
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