Judge Green-Lights Defamation Lawsuit Against Rickey Smiley
Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The security guard, Henry Robinson, had apparently been a little overzealous in trying to secure a picture with the comedian and he claimed that on his second request, Smiley began calling him “the gay security guard” and “faggot,” According to courthousenews.com.
Smiley then took the incident to the airwaves, making fun of Robinson on his show at Dallas station 97.9 The Beat. He spoke of “the gay security guard” at Dallas Love Field Airport and, according to the lawsuit, recited a poem about “Henry, Henry” who “sure act[s] gay,” told off-color jokes about Henry’s’ duties in conducting personal searches and gave an admonition to Henry to stop taking pictures. Robinson complained that people started calling him gay after the show aired.
Rickey Smiley and Radio One, owner of 97.9 The Beat, moved to dismiss the defamation claim, saying the show was not defamatory because it was satire and could not be taken as fact. But U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor disagreed with the satire argument, ruling that a reasonable person could take Smiley’s comments at face value and assume Robinson was gay. And because Robinson “denies that he is homosexual,” Smiley’s statements were a false statement of fact, O’Connor ruled.
He added that the broadcast could be considered defamatory because, in Texas, calling someone homosexual “imputes the crime of sodomy.”
Though the Supreme Court decriminalized sodomy in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, O’Connor found “that the imputation of homosexuality might as a matter of fact expose a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”
The judge ruled that Radio One could not be held liable for the statements made by Smiley at the airport, but allowed Robinson to pursue his defamation claims over the on-air remarks. –gerald radford