After the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke in early 2004, Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes described prison interrogators supplied by the defense contractor CACI as “killers” who raped children, showed no loyalty to America, and “fought on the side of apartheid.”
CACI and its legal team at Steptoe & Johnson shot back, filing a defamation suit in federal district court in Alexandria, Va. (aka the Rocket Docket). The court dismissed that suit in September 2006, and on Tuesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did the same, ruling that all of Rhodes’ speech, even obvious exaggeration, was protected by the First Amendment. The court concluded that military contractors are public figures; as such, they had to prove that Rhodes acted with “reckless disregard for the truth” in making her claims. More damning still, the court found that many of Rhodes’ claims are backed by reliable sources.
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