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A Michigan state appeals court dismissed a black former congresswoman’s defamation lawsuit against the Detroit Free Press, which misquoted her as saying she hated the white race. During U.S. Rep. Barbara Rose Collins’ run for a fourth term in 1996, the Free Press reported that she said: “All white people, I don’t believe, are intolerant. That’s why I say I love the individuals but I hate the race.” Collins lost the primary election, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick now represents the district. After Collins’ loss, the Free Press published a front-page retraction, saying it had misquoted Collins on some of her remarks. The Free Press said Collins had not said, “I hate the race,” but rather, “I don’t like the race.” Collins sued in 1997, claiming defamation due to the Free Press article and a related story by The Associated Press in which Free Press officials said they stood by the quote. A Wayne County Circuit Court judge refused the Free Press‘ request to dismiss the case. But in an opinion released Monday, the state Court of Appeals said Collins’ case did not have merit because the quotes were essentially the same. “When the article is viewed in its entirety, the difference between the two quotations is not material,” the appeals court said. “The gist of the actual statement was the same as the subject misquotation.” The Court of Appeals also rejected Collins’ claim against the AP because the wire story simply republished the original quote, which the court deemed wasn’t defamatory. Collins’ attorney, Sarah Arnold, said her client may appeal. Arnold said she had called an English professor to the stand to discuss the difference between the terms “don’t like” and “hate.” “I think this case could have a negative impact on race relations, and have the effect of allowing media types to exploit racial conflict,” she said. Free Press attorney Herschel Fink said Monday he was pleased with the court’s decision. He called the quote “an innocent error” by the reporter who transcribed Collins’ recorded interview. “It would have no different meaning to the reader,” Fink said. “In either case it was a racist statement, so it was substantially the same.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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