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WorldNetDaily sues Esquire for zillions over satire

Millions of readers want refund1

Joseph Farah, victim?

In the latest attempt to prop up flagging sales of its fizzling book, Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, Joseph Farah, Jerome Corsi and  their companies are suing Esquire Magazine, its parent company and publisher as a publicity stunt — or that’s how this observer sees it.

Esquire Magazine published an online article May 28, 2011 saying that WorldNetDaily and WND Books were recalling the defective book [made moot by the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate] and offering refunds to customers.

I said at the time:

As soon as I heard this, I knew it was ridiculous; however, I guess some didn’t get the joke. I wasn’t even going to write about the story, except that the Wall Street Journal called what Esquire did “disastrous” in their own article: How Not to Write Satire. The Journal reports that Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily got all huffy and is exploring his legal options.

I think that anyone who knows Farah would not take a story seriously that said he was refunding anything, and certainly not admitting that there was anything wrong with Corsi’s book. The inclusion by Esquire of a second totally-beyond-belief fake title supposedly written by Corsi, Capricorn One: NASA, JFK, and the Great moon landing cover-up should have clued everybody that the article was satire; this was the equivalent of a label: “HEY, THIS ARTICLE IS SATIRE!!!” If that weren’t enough, the article was explicitly labeled as “humor”:

Nevertheless, some fairly high up media types were fooled and supposedly WND was floodded by calls from the media asking for confirmation.

Despite all the publicity generated by the satirical article and its retraction/clarification, WTBC?’s ranking at Amazon.com dropped from #67 the day of the satire to #3,110 within a month.

Like any true birther lawsuit, and I think we have to treat this lawsuit in that way, the complaint includes an allegation that Obama is not eligible to be President, that his long-form birth certificate is a fake. Nowhere does Farah or Corsi actually assert that the certificate is a fake, but attribute it to others:

About 25 percent of the American people believe … that the newly-released birth certificate is fraudulent.

I presume that the careful wording indicates that Farah doesn’t believe it himself.

The most startling admission was when WND admitted that after the Esquire article, “consumers began requesting refunds.”

The lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia (and embedded below) demands a large sum in damages of various kinds. Not being a lawyer, it’s hard for me to tell whether any of the damages are listed multiple times, but news reports put the total at $285 million. For that kind of money you’d think Esquire had spilled coffee in Farah’s lap. A jury trial is requested.

Esquire responded:

We have not seen the complaint. The blog post spoke for itself. It was satire, an age-old and completely legitimate form of expression. Additionally, the piece was tagged as ‘humor,’ as are all of our frequent satire posts on Esquire’s Politics Blog. That was not lost on our observant readers.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/corsi-farah-warren-esquire-obama-certificate-suit-2011-6#ixzz1QmLFI1xs

The best outcome I can think of for this case (besides WND losing) is that we might actually get some real sales number for Corsi’s book and evidence as to whether or not the bulk purchases of WTBC? were responsible for its best-seller status. I consider that a long shot. WND does not seem to be trying to adjudicate Obama’s eligibility, so expect nothing on that front.

Farah vs. Esquire

1The subhead is satire. Obviously millions of copies of WTBC? haven’t been sold, so millions could not be asking for refunds. However the tens of millions of dollars in actual damages demanded in the suit would only be appropriate for a book that was a big deal, and this one wasn’t.

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32 Responses to WorldNetDaily sues Esquire for zillions over satire

  1. avatar
    J.Potter June 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Anyone know if the Esquire quote of the initial printing of WTBC? being 200,000 copies is accurate? If so that’s up, what, $1,100/copy in damages? Depending on the interpretation of the papers.

    That last claim, of $100M for whatever-it-was, simply mindboggling. I remember Farah saying he was going to own Esquire after this (snicker), guess he decided he wants more.

    Would also be fun to know how many “donations” to its “Esquire Fund” WND sold. how many and how much. Are the faithful THAT faithful?

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 29, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    This lawsuit may turn on whether a reasonable person would believe the Esquire article. On the WND side is the evidence that some readers did read it as fact, including James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (linked to in the article). However, the satirical clues, to me, were obvious, and I would cite:

    1) The overall implausibility of the article. Why would they recall the book a day after release instead of the day before the release (given that Obama’s long form had been out for a full month)? Makes no sense and I said so to myself at the time.
    2) Totally out of character for Farah and I said so to myself at the time.
    3) The mention of the outrageously-titled fake book, Capricorn One: NASA, JFK, and the Great moon landing cover-up (which anyone could verify in seconds was not something Jerome Corsi wrote).
    4) The totally over the top fake dialog between Farah and Corsi reported by an “unnamed source” where Corsi says: “I mean, we’ll do anything to hurt Obama, and erase his memory…” That’s a fantasy “too good to be true” statement.

  3. avatar
    Rickey June 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    WND’s attorney is the infamous Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch – remember Paula Jones?

    Surely Klayman and Farah are familiar with the Supreme Court decision in Hustler v. Falwell.

    And here I thought that conservatives were supposed to be opposed to frivolous lawsuits.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    I’ll share my personal story. I never read the Esquire article until today. On May 28 I had seen some chatter on the Internet just to the effect that WND had recalled the book and would pulp the copies and give refunds. Based on wild implausibility of that premise alone, I concluded it wasn’t true. At the time I thought it might be a WND publicity stunt of some sort, although I couldn’t figure out an angle. So even without the outrageous fake book title and the over the top dialog, I didn’t buy the story for a microsecond.

    If I had actually read article, it would have been even more obvious.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    There are unsourced claims on the Internet that strong initial orders pushed the initial print run to “six figures” but I am skeptical.

    J.Potter: Anyone know if the Esquire quote of the initial printing of WTBC? being 200,000 copies is accurate?

  6. avatar
    J.Potter June 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    3 weeks ahead of time, the books would have been printed but not yet shipped to retail outlets. Every day closer to sale date the cost of a retraction mounts. The faithful would have snapped it up on day 1, or ordered via WND. The release of the LFBC, not the Esquire satire, killed the general market appeal of the book (if it had any). They probably could have gone online only, WND and Amazon, and come out ahead. This is somewhat based on personal, professional experience. They swung for the fences, wanted to see that cover in stores all over the country, and lost. The suit is a desperate last gasp. That it WND never saw a dollar to dirty for its collection.

    Anyone thinking WND has a prayer with the suit? I say no. More grandstanding and martyrdom.

  7. avatar
    US Citizen June 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    I can’t imagine that book sales from any new publicity will exceed his legal costs, but that’s WND for you.
    I hope Esquire eats them alive.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    You’re probably right about book sales, but there is the number of hits on the WND web site to consider.

    US Citizen: I can’t imagine that book sales from any new publicity will exceed his legal costs, but that’s WND for you.

  9. avatar
    Bob June 29, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Can people who bought WTBC under the impression that is was “non-fiction” get their money back?

  10. avatar
    richCares June 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    There are vey few lawyers that can match Orly’s success rate on legal issues, Larry Klayman is one of them. (on many blogs, Larry is ther most banned poster)

  11. avatar
    John Potter June 30, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Forbes has an article up about the suit, it has attracted some hysterical comments, including (supposedly), contributions from Farah himself. Good times.

    http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2011/06/29/birthers-sue-esquire-over-parody-seeking-120-million/

  12. avatar
    John Potter June 30, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    Well, technically a blog post, not an actual article. Forbes itself is never this exciting 😛

  13. avatar
    misha June 30, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Rickey: WND’s attorney is the infamous Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch

    Klayman actually sued his own mother, and took it to trial:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2317/

  14. avatar
    misha June 30, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    Remember, Al Franken was sued over satire, and Fox was literally laughed out of court.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_v._Franken#The_lawsuit

  15. avatar
    Majority Will June 30, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    US Citizen: I hope Esquire eats them alive.

    Even better. It’s the Hearst Corporation.

  16. avatar
    US Citizen June 30, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Majority Will: Even better. It’s the Hearst Corporation.

    So when WND loses, they’ll blame the SLA? 😉
    I don’t think Hearst is as rich as they previously were, but I’m sure they can still hire top-notch lawyers.
    Perhaps it’ll go like the Church of Scientology against the Cult Awareness Network. ie: they end up owning them and changing the entire content of the organization.
    Can you imagine the Hearst Corp owning WND and changing their content?
    The birthers would have a hissy fit!

  17. avatar
    ballantine June 30, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Seems like Farah is saying he was defamed for someone suggesting he would not be doing what an decent persons would do when the President showed he was wrong. How dare they suggest, even in satire, that he would back down rather than double down by accusing the President and the state of Hawaii with massive conspiracy as well as doubling down on the lies and distortions. How dare they ruin his reputation like that.

  18. avatar
    Black Lion June 30, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Good wrap up of the article over at conwebwatch…And OCT is one again cited…Good work Doc…

    The WND Birther Lawsuit Dog and Pony Show (And The Question Joseph Farah Won’t Answer)

    We’ve noticed the increasing irrelevance of WorldNetDaily, due to the overall vengeful yet factually dubious nature of its reporting. We saw firsthand another example in the press conference WND held June 29 to formally announce its defamation lawsuit against Esquire magazine over a piece of satire WND didn’t find funny.

    To put a patina of credibility on the proceedings, WND rented a small conference room (this one) at the National Press Club in Washington. Pretty much anyone can rent a room there — remember, the utterly discredited Larry Sinclair discredited himself even more there. WND paid a few hundred bucks for a room with a flat-screen TV in order to make its little dog and pony show look professional.

    Indeed, WND tries to ride the supposed credibility of location in its own article on the press conference, with the headline “Eligibility takes center stage at National Press Club.” In fact, there were much larger events going on at the NPC at the same time, one of which was using the actual “center stage” of the NPC ballroom.

    Inside the Bloomberg Room, members of the press were far outnumbered by people affiliated with WND. In fact, there were only two members of the press there: a writer for AdWeek and myself. (AdWeek’s article on the press conference is here.) Another person appearing to be a reporter asked questions, but she was apparently affiliated with WND as well.

    Before anyone could ask any questions about the lawsuit, though, WND felt it had to push its birther agenda in order to provide what WND editor Joseph Farah called “very important background” to the lawsuit. First up was Jerome Corsi, who took credit for forcing President Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate, going on to declare that “a person we’ve had in the Deartment of Health in Hawaii who has been a mole to us, giving us information, said that the birth certificate had been forged and was now the logbook.” Corsi asserted that “with the release of that document, the entire future of the Obama presidency depends on the authenticity of that document.”

    see rest of the article over at
    http://conwebwatch.tripod.com/blog/

  19. avatar
    Black Lion June 30, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Did anyone see how salty Joey Farah sounded in the following posts at the Forbes site?

    “This is Joseph Farah, one of the subjects of the above abusive posting by Jeff Bercovici. I am hereby publicly issuing a retraction demand from Forbes and its writer for lying about me and my beliefs. Since I have never stated or suggested in all I have written and spoken regarding Barack Obama and his eligibility problems that I believe he was born in Kenya, the entire premise of the above article is, shall we say, misleading. It’s no wonder that a blogger like Mr. Bercovici, who, to my knowledge has never spoken to me or attempted to interview me, would completely misrepresent my beliefs while defending an indefensibly defamatory article in Esquire. What is that old saying? Birds of a feather…

    jfarah
    I have no idea where he was born. Like millions of other Americans, I’m still awaiting a valid birth certificate — not a short form, not a forgery, not a poorly manufactured Adobe digital file put together from pieces of other documents. I don’t know how many times one can write something so plainly and clearly only to have his views mistated so blatantly — as you did in the lead of your article. That’s the premise. Everything else you wrote is built around a false premise — that I said or think or suggested that Obama was born in Kenya.

    Unlike you, I actually form opinions based on evidence rather than conventional wisdom — especially in matters as grave as constitutional eligiblity for the presidency.”

  20. avatar
    Bovril June 30, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    According the reports from Ad Week

    http://www.adweek.com/news/press/birthers-hold-press-conference-announce-suit-against-esquire-133096

    (They got their monetary figures horribly screwed up but what the hell)

    Farah stated that WTBC had a print run of 65,000 copies.

    Based on that, WND reckons the value of each bok must be about $4,000 each….(255,000,000 / 65,000)

    Optimistic much….. 😎

  21. avatar
    Bovril June 30, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Doc,

    Heads up from the Conweblog article, looks like porn ‘tache Farah and his Dirty Sanchez has the hots for you again…..

    I pointed out to Corsi that, his and Farah’s assertions to the contrary, there are people who will defend the authenticity of the PDF birth certificate or at least rebut its attackers, such as Dr. Conspiracy’s detailed rebuttal of the Ken Vogt analysis that Corsi devoted three WND articles to. Corsi’s response was a curious one: After calling Dr. Conspiracy “one of my favorites,” Corsi said, ‘I’ll be writing about Dr. Conspiracy in the next few days. I’ll be exposing his background, his entire credentials, his involvement with his company. I’ve got a detailed — I just haven’t had time to write it up.”

    When I asked Corsi why he’s personally attacking his critics by digging into their backgrounds, Corsi suddenly softened his tone: “I’m sorry, I said I would evaluate his credentials. It’s not a personal attack, but we’re going to evaluate his credentials in his point-by-point.”

  22. avatar
    Sef June 30, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Black Lion: going on to declare that “a person we’ve had in the Deartment of Health in Hawaii who has been a mole to us, giving us information

    Maybe this explains why they put the LFBC volume in a more secure location. I’m sure the HI DOH officials will love to get this information.

  23. avatar
    DCH June 30, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    The timing of the LFBC from the WH and Hawaii was perfectly timed to beat the Birthers at WND at their own game, on their own turf.
    The WTBC book release was preceded with Trump’s TV phony POTUS campaign to generate interest. Nobody would care about Corsi and WND on their own –they needed Trump. This made the WH’s job easy and inevitable; the WH could render the WTBC moot without even acknowledging their existence. Trump made the fatal mistake of going on TV for two weeks straight accusing the POTUS of not knowing where he was born – without seeming to know that lying about a man’s mother is a really bad idea – especially if he happens to be the POTUS.
    When Trump ran for POTUS using Obama’s birth as his “issue” he DIRECTLY engaged the most powerful politician in the country (a sitting US POTUS) without an outright lie and insult, and, thus, became a LEGITMATE political target that could, and HAD to be completely destroyed – ON TV. Obama took him down BRUTALLY and without leaving any doubt (with class) with a comedic takedown, in person, at the correspondent’s event with Trump present. Trump got totally owned and was proven the fool. It was a rhetorical head shot. Trump got totally owned, at his own game no less.
    The WH bypassed all the Birther’s internet infrastructure and echo chambers and wiped it out by rendering it moot – it is just a few dead-enders now that nobody will listen to. WND and Corsi get to sit on their book investment. LOL Discovery would be a hoot in this case.

  24. avatar
    Horus June 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    “HEY, THIS ARTICLE IS SATIRE!!!”

    Psychotics no longer have the ability to tell the difference Satire and Reality.
    They don’t understand words with double meanings either.

  25. avatar
    Horus June 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    misha: Remember, Al Franken was sued over satire, and Fox was literally laughed out of court.

    That was soo sweet back then!

  26. avatar
    Loren June 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    This lawsuit may turn on whether a reasonable person would believe the Esquire article. On the WND side is the evidence that some readers did read it as fact, including James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (linked to in the article).

    Bizarrely, what we have here is WND basically relying on Poe’s Law as part of its cause of action. Their core contention is that WND’s output is indistinguishable from a parody of their work.

  27. avatar
    Rickey June 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Satirical stories published by The Onion are mistaken for the real thing so often that there is a website devoted to the phenomenon.

    http://literallyunbelievable.org/

  28. avatar
    Thrifty June 30, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Rickey: Satirical stories published by The Onion are mistaken for the real thing so often that there is a website devoted to the phenomenon.http://literallyunbelievable.org/

    That is amazing. Thank you for that link.

  29. avatar
    misha June 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I got a few e-mails asking if this was real:

    http://newyorkleftist.blogspot.com/2010/11/odonnell-in-aristocrats.html

  30. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I cried, that is so funny.

    Loren: Their core contention is that WND’s output is indistinguishable from a parody of their work.

  31. avatar
    Judge Mental June 30, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I cried, that is so funny.

    Snap! Me too. One of the funniest observations I’ve seen on here for a long while.

  32. avatar
    J.Potter June 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Thanks Bovril for linking that, had been very curious about the print run. Of course, the source is Farah…

    In the same article, Klayman is quoted as saying that the damages sought were in relation to Esquire’s ad revenues? In relation to as in by adding a decimal place? According to MPA (http://www.magazine.org/), Esquire generates around $20M/quarter Q1 – Q3, and $30M – $40M in Q4, or $100M a year roughly (most recent released data is a year old). So WND feels entitled to 2+ years of Esquire’s gross income?

    Shouldn’t the filing have some exhibitis relating to injury, since they are asserting Esquire caused returns and damaged sales? I mean, if this is a serious case, not a marketing ploy?

    Bovril:

    Farah stated that WTBC had a print run of 65,000 copies.