March 22, 2004
State Sen. John Blatchford filed a $1.2 million libel suit against the Nelson Daily Tribune in Nuckolls County Superior Court on Friday.
The lawsuit was brought against the newspaper in response to a May 15 story that said Blatchford had carried his nephew on his payroll for the last two years. The article also stated that the nephew only reported for work once a week.
In his complaint, Blatchford accused the Tribune of being false, misleading and malicious. He said that his lawyer nephew, Kevin Simpson, is in fact on his payroll—but his annual consulting fee is $2,850, not $28,500, the figure that the article reported.
“The Daily Tribune has been out to get me for years,” Blatchford said during a news conference. “Everyone knows that the Daily Tribune is a conservative Republican newspaper. Its publisher and editor have never appreciated my liberal stances on various issues.”
Blatchford, like other public officials, cannot collect damages solely by proving the article to be incorrect. According to existing law, public officials filing a libel suit have to prove that false information was published with malicious intent, such as knowing the story to be false.
Daily Tribune editor Henry Moret referred inquiries regarding the charges to the newspaper’s attorney, who could not be reached for comment.
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