Music blogger Bob Lefsetz isn’t backing down after receiving a threat letter from an attorney for music exec Charlie Walk. In fact, he’s hired veteran litigator Howard King to fire back a scathing letter of his own.
Walk left Fox reality competition The Four last week after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, and he took issue with Lefsetz’s coverage of the situation, which included a link to an open letter written by accuser Tristan Coopersmith. Walk’s lawyer, Thomas Clare, sent a letter on Tuesday demanding a retraction and setting the stage for a defamation fight.
King minced no words in his response, characterizing the demand as an attempt to stifle Lefsetz’s First Amendment rights.
“Mr. Lefsetz has a long and well-respected history of commenting on the entertainment business, among other topics, and operating as a clearing house for any third party comments directed to him,” writes King. “It is not Mr. Lefsetz’s practice to investigate the truth or veracity of third party comments, nor does he purport to do so.”
King argues that Lefsetz is known for giving his opinions, and opinions by their nature are not defamatory. He also notes that, in this instance, the blogger was merely raising questions such as “Does Charlie Walk get bounced from (the) television singing show ‘The Four’? One would think definitely, right?”
“Mr. Lefsetz’s piece was essentially a series of questions,” writes King. “Maybe your client answered them and didn’t like the answers.”
The issue of whether raising a question is grounds for defamation was recently addressed in a defamation case against James Woods. The court ruled in the actor’s favor, finding “a question indicates a defendant’s lack of definitive knowledge about the issue and invites the reader to consider various possibilities.”
Walk’s lawyer also claimed the exec had been extorted by a man named Thomas Gilligan, who was threatening to “weaponize” the #MeToo movement against him. Gilligan, in an email to Lefsetz, says his correspondence with Walk was the result of heavy drinking because of his mother’s death and in no way was an attempt at extortion.
King shared his thoughts on that too.
“Speaking of opinions, you’re certainly entitled to propound your convoluted theory about Tom Gilligan’s drunk texting leading to Ms. Coopersmith’s post,” writes King. “After all, there are people who believe that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a DC pizzeria (not smart people, but people).”
In response to Clare’s request that Lefsetz preserve all relevant documents and communications, King asks the same. He wants Walk to keep all records that relate to Coopersmith and any other women who who worked with him that are of a sexual nature or involve harassment in the workplace.
A courtroom battle appears to be imminent, and The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Clare inquiring whether he intends to file a defamation claim on behalf of Walk.