Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene accused The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times in a libel lawsuit filed Wednesday of orchestrating a "plan to assassinate [his] character" that cost him the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Florida.
Greene, who lost to Miami U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek by 26 percentage points, said the newspapers published stories about his real estate dealings in California and his 145-foot yacht Summerwind that were "knowingly based on false information."
"Defendants . . . published the articles with the goal of destroying the personal, business and political reputation of Greene," the suit claims.
Greene, represented by prominent Atlanta lawyer L. Lin Wood, is seeking a total of $500 million in damages from the two papers.
"We don't have any comment on the lawsuit, since the case was just filed," said Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. "But we can say that the coverage of this race and the candidates was fair, deep and thorough."
Said Times Editor Neil Brown: "It is our firm opinion that the allegations in this lawsuit are preposterous. We believe Jeff Greene is a sore loser and he's blaming the newspapers because he can't accept the verdict of the voters."
Greene's defamation suit, filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, is unusual for a political figure. The news media enjoy strong protections of freedom of the press under the First Amendment. To win damages, Greene's lawyer would have to prove the two stories that allegedly defamed him were published by the papers with "actual malice."
The 55-page suit claims that The Herald and The Times "had actual knowledge of facts prior to publication that disproved their false accusations but nonetheless proceeded to publication in an intentional effort to harm Greene and his campaign."
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