Mandell Menkes prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by former and current Illinois gubernatorial candidate Tio Hardiman. Hardiman sued WFLD Fox 32 for defamation and false light arising from a news broadcast in the run up to the 2014 democratic primary.
Hardiman claimed WFLD (owned and operated by Fox Television Stations, LLC) destroyed his “good reputation as a reputable and law-abiding citizen and candidate with the voters of the State of Illinois, where the Plaintiff was well and favorably known” by publishing statements in the broadcast teaser and companion web article indicating that he had a prior conviction for domestic violence and was a former gang member.
Hardiman admitted at his deposition that he had pled guilty to battering his former wife in 1999, long before the broadcast. In addition, other media sources had previously reported that Hardiman was a former gang member, and WFLD aired a clarification at the close of the broadcast, noting that Hardiman said that he had worked closely with gang members but had never been in a gang.
WFLD filed a motion for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that Hardiman—a public figure—had no evidence that the WFLD producers involved in publishing the “conviction” and “gang” statements had any reason to doubt their truth when the broadcast aired. On August 21, 2017, the court granted WFLD’s motion for summary judgment and denied Hardiman’s cross motion. The court found that Hardiman had failed to contradict the WFLD producers’ testimony regarding their belief in the statements’ truth. Hardiman filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that the court had misapplied the law by usurping the role of the jury in weighing the credibility of the WFLD producers’ testimony. On December 5, 2017, the court denied Hardiman’s motion to reconsider, reiterating that Hardiman failed to provide the court with any actual evidence that the defendants published the broadcast either with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard for its truth.