Court Tells MyPillow CEO That Allegedly Dating An Actress And Buying Her Alcohol Isn't Defamatory

from the insulted-by-being-linked-to-attractive-people dept

MyPillow CEO/election fraud conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell apparently understands defamation law about as well as he understands cybersecurity, social media, and election machine operation. Lindell will be learning more about defamation law as he defends himself against voting machine manufacturer Dominion which has sued him (and a bunch of other Trumpists) over his alleged defamation.

But we’ll see if he learns anything from this other lawsuit — one he filed after the Daily Mail published an article claiming he pursued a relationship with 30 Rock actress Jane Krakowski. Now, most people would not feel insulted after being romantically linked to an actress, but this apparently bothered Lindell so much he decided to sue over it.

There’s no defamation there says the New York federal court handling Lindell’s complaint. The ruling is short, punchy, and instructive, although the court is dealing with a student especially resistant to learning lessons from stupid mistakes. (via Courthouse News Service).

The decision [PDF] says nothing in the Daily Mail’s article, which alleged Lindell and Krakowski had a nine-month relationship during which Lindell sent her gifts like bottles of champagne, even approaches defamation, no matter how much Lindell would like to construe it otherwise.

Lindell immediately informed the Daily Mail the romance never happened. So did Krakowski. Both denials were included in the article. Even if the article was false, it wasn’t defamatory and it contained denials that would allow readers to draw their own conclusions about the Mail’s claims, which were allegedly supplied by friends of the actress.

But Lindell’s main problem isn’t his alleged relationship with the sitcom star. No, he’s far more bothered by the implication that he — a clean and sober recovering drug user and alcoholic — would deign to buy alcohol for other people, even as a gift.

On a more abstract level, Lindell claims the Article disparaged his moral character. He maintains he is a recovering alcoholic who would never buy alcohol or “foist” it on other people, including Krakowski. To the contrary, Lindell is a Christian who “is piously devoted to his religious faith, his family, civic involvement and charity.” Thus, he would never “engage in any sort of scandalous” or secret romantic relationship.

As a result of the Article, Lindell asserts his reputation “in the field of addiction recovery as well as in religious communities” has been damaged. He also claims the Lindell Recovery Network “has only been able to associate with a handful of churches,” and that an unnamed “Christian broadcaster” told the Recovery Network that “churches may be pulling out” because of the Article.

While there are many reasons entities might want to distance themselves from Lindell, given his complete abandonment of rationality, it seems unlikely this article would have that effect. It never suggested Lindell was consuming alcohol. And Lindell was divorced at the time, so he was free to pursue companionship without running afoul of God’s laws or whatever.

The court says this is ridiculous. It also notes there are far more serious allegations in the Daily Mail article but none of those appeared to have bothered Lindell.

Lindell does not challenge several provocative assertions in the Article. The Article describes Lindell as a “beleaguered ‘Stop the Steal’ Trump champion” who faces dozens of legal actions for his claims about election fraud and a fake COVID-19 cure, and for false advertising related to his pillow company. It goes on to state Lindell’s “apparent enthusiasm for martial law” has caused retailers to drop his pillow products.

Nope, Lindell wanted to argue about actresses and alcohol. None of this rises to the level of defamation, says the court.

Even assuming the romance never happened, the above description would not defame Lindell. Dating an actress-secret or not-would not cause “public hatred,” “shame,” “ridicule,” or any similar feeling towards Lindell. Both Lindell and Krakowski are unmarried adults, and Lindell’s alleged actions typify those of a person in a consenting relationship. […] New York courts require a publication to “impute[] serious sexual misconduct” to be defamatory per se. The Article does not mention sexual conduct at all, let alone serious sexual misconduct.

[…]

Lindell has provided no support for the proposition that gossip about a typical monogamous relationship could be “reasonably susceptible” to defamatory meaning.

The alcohol angle isn’t any better, even given Lindell’s background as a recovering alcoholic.

Inferring a step further, Lindell claims the Article still defamed him because he would never buy alcohol or “foist” it on other people after recovering from his own addiction. But whatever Lindell’s personal history with addiction, buying alcohol for a dating partner would not reasonably expose him to “public hatred,” “shame,” or “ridicule.” The purchase of alcohol is a legal and ordinary act. If even more problematic depictions of alcohol consumption, such as underage drinking or alcoholism, routinely fail to qualify as defamatory in New York courts, surely no reasonable reader could find it offensive to exchange champagne or other bottles of liquor as gifts between romantic partners.

That ends Lindell’s attempt to wring money out of the Daily Mail for suggesting he dates women and buys them gifts. Lindell may still be on the hook for the Mail’s legal fees as well. New York’s anti-SLAPP law is operative here, even though the Daily Mail, for whatever reason, never bothered to file a counterclaim. The suit has been dismissed (without prejudice, meaning Lindell can waste more of his money trying this again), but the court points out fee-shifting isn’t automatic. So Lindell’s legal reps have at least one more visit to court ahead of them to respond to the Mail’s demand for fees, which will, presumably, be arriving shortly.

Being personally offended isn’t the same thing as being libeled. This is a distinction far too many plaintiffs fail to grasp. Unfortunately, their misunderstanding of the law (deliberate or mistaken) can still be expensive for those they sue. And, as the court points out in a footnote, fee-shifting isn’t guaranteed. Federal courts can (and often do) decide state law doesn’t apply at the federal level. And that makes this case yet another data point in favor of a federal anti-SLAPP law — one that will deter bogus lawsuits all over the nation, rather than just in certain states.

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Companies: mypillow, the daily mail

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Comments on “Court Tells MyPillow CEO That Allegedly Dating An Actress And Buying Her Alcohol Isn't Defamatory”

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42 Comments
David says:

You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "divorce"

And Lindell was divorced at the time, so he was free to pursue companionship without running afoul of God’s laws or whatever.

That’s not how any of this works. For Catholics, there is no such thing as divorce, let alone remarriage.

And there was not even a pretense of having reentered wedlock here, and a lot of churches other than Catholic have a dim view towards carnal relations (which presumably this is supposed to insinuate) outside of wedlock.

So most certainly this might paint a behavior/character that is likely to cause trouble in the circles he cares about, like insinuating a PETA member to indulge in ritual slaughters of animals.

Whether "in circles he cares about" is of legal importance rather than "community standards" which are certainly not firmly in the control of fundamental religions, and whether the allegations are true (which is an absolute defense) are sort-of irrelevant if we are talking about nothing other than reporting the allegations as such and also printing the denials.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "divo

  • For Catholics*

Good thing he’s not catholic, I guess, since he’s been married and divorced twice already.

which presumably this is supposed to insinuate

If you find it impossible to believe somebody could have a relationship without having sex, that says far more about you than it does about this guy. Dating before marriage is nearly universal, and plenty of people manage to avoid having sex while doing so.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

David says:

Re: Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "

You don’t need to have sex to be damned. Looking at a woman with desire in your heart is enough. That’s in the gospel. Pope John Paul II put a cherry on top by stating that you were not supposed to even look at your wedded wife with concupiscence in your heart.

So there is a lot of potential for feeling defamed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towar

I still fail to see the relevance. "Looking at a woman with desire in your heart" is unrelated to dating, at least outside of your own, apparently sinful, mind. The rest of us are perfectly capable of just going along with our day without (mentally) fornicating with people, whether or not we are dating them. If you can’t imagine anyone doing that, maybe you should take Jesus’ advice and rip out your eyes to avoid sinning with them.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You might want to read up on the Catholic view t

Better tell that to Lindell. That was my point and I picked the expression "feeling defamed" quite deliberately to underline that. It’s funny that you get voted "insightful" by summarising my argument, but then it’s not like this happens rarely to me.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You might want to read up on the Catholic vi

Well, you could choose your words even more carefully, since what came across in your post is that you sided with Lindell’s feeling of being defamed being important, and not the correct observation that his feelings mean nothing legally.

I’d start by not banging on about Catholic dogma in a thread about someone who isn’t Catholic.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towar

"Pope John Paul II"

Again, Lindell is not Catholic, and evangelicals consider the Pope to be a heretic.

"So there is a lot of potential for feeling defamed."

There’s a lot of potential to feel a lot of things that are meaningless in court. So?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "divo

Well, I mean, first of all I don’t think Mike Lindell is Catholic, so there’s that.

Second, there are all sorts of Catholic church dogmas that mainstream American Catholicism rejects. You know Catholics are supposed to oppose the death penalty too, right?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "divo

Lindell’s an ‘evangelical Christian’ which I take to mean ‘hold everyone else to a ridiculous standard, but not yourself.’

Before the 1970’s they were totally against divorce. The bible was clear, Jesus was clear – "whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Then divorce started affecting evangelicals as well. So in the typical Christian fashion, they decided it was no longer important.

The bible didn’t change.
The words didn’t mean anything different.
They just decided to ignore it, like they ignore anything that’s not convenient to them.

So pointing out what Catholics think as far as divorce is concerned isn’t as relevant as you think. It’s just a matter of when it affects enough of them, it’s no longer a sin.

David says:

Re: Re: You might want to read up on the Catholic view towards "

That’s not really much different with any ancient dogmatic religion. As the times progress, so does the cherry-picking from the canon. It’s just that different variants do it at different speed in order to have something to disagree about.

Let’s not forget that Jews, Christians and Muslims consider the same God canonical, and that’s even before we further split into factions.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Cocaine…. its a hell of a drug.

He is following the Trump playbook, find anything he can to cling on, threaten a lawsuit, use that to fundraise & keep his 15 min of fame going.

His latest commercials talk about how he and many of the mypillow faithful have been cancelled by cancel culture & how to fight back they can buy mypillow products for great savings… I do not remember the pillow being $98 but thats the MSRP he quotes in the commercial to make its astronomical price seem like a bargain to the faithful.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JMT (profile) says:

"To the contrary, Lindell is a Christian who "is piously devoted to his religious faith, his family, civic involvement and charity." Thus, he would never "engage in any sort of scandalous" or secret romantic relationship."

Claiming Christianity as proof you’d never do anything wrong is quite a legal defence. It also seems to ignore much of the history of Christianity.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'It's everyone's fault but mine!'

As a result of the Article, Lindell asserts his reputation "in the field of addiction recovery as well as in religious communities" has been damaged.

Hard to damage something that’s already been burned to the ground and covered in poison and caltrops by your own words and actions.

He also claims the Lindell Recovery Network "has only been able to associate with a handful of churches," and that an unnamed "Christian broadcaster" told the Recovery Network that "churches may be pulling out" because of the Article.

Yeah Mike, that’s why people are distancing themselves from you, an article about how you got frisky with a woman and gave her a drink. Not all the other stuff, just that.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: 'It's everyone's fault but mine!'

"Yeah Mike, that’s why people are distancing themselves from you, an article about how you got frisky with a woman and gave her a drink. Not all the other stuff, just that."

Well, in his defense, in his little world that would be what drives "people" away. Going by his rhetoric the ones who’d be ok with that aren’t really people.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

an unnamed "Christian broadcaster" told the Recovery Network that "churches may be pulling out" because of the Article.

Yeah, it’s got to be because of the article. It can’t be because he’s a blathering screwball. That’s just fine. But dating? That’s where they draw the line.

And I thought the church discouraged ‘pulling out…’ Maybe he misunderstood?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bloof (profile) says:

Mike, Mike, you’re an evangelical christian and Trump supporter, there isn’t a person alive who looks at you and expects consistency when it comes to your actions and beliefs. They expect you to say one thing, do another and go on unsolicited half hour rants about other people doing the thing you did and selectively quote your magic book. Nobody will think less of you for allegedly buying a drink than they already do for all the other stuff you’ve done in public.

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