By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A conservative political group in Johnson County is suing the local newspaper for alleged libel and contained in an advertisement the paper ran last week.
The Johnson County Patriot Conservatives filed a lawsuit Monday against the Buffalo Bulletin over an ad the newspaper ran in the Aug. 11 edition, alleging it contained defamatory information about the group. The lawsuit seeks up to $36 million in damages.
The ad in question was titled “If they lie about the little things…” and detailed two incidents involving the group.
The ad said in one instance, the group was told no political activity would be allowed at the Crazy Woman Square Farmers Market, but its members set up a booth to “promote their political agenda.” When asked to stop, the group allegedly argued with the market organizer and obtained some apples to “pretend to sell” while promoting their agenda “in a dishonest attempt to skirt the rules.”
According to the ad, the second incident involved the group renting the Bomber Mountain Civic Center to hold a political rally. However, its members told the staff the event was a recital.
Although the lawsuit did not go into great detail, it said the language of the ad was “defamatory on its face and nothing but a reckless disregard for the facts.”
The lawsuit claimed the ad contained false misinformation about the group and that the paper was in violation of journalistic standards by failing to to reach out to sources for corroboration or refutation of the claims.
“The intentional and blatant disregard for the truth demonstrates a reckless disregard for their bias, their ill-will and their political and retaliatory motives to publicly smear and discredit the PAC as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” the lawsuit said.
The PAC claimed the newspaper ran the ad as an attempt to sway and influence a $36 million tax vote in Johnson County, which was taking place Tuesday. No mention of this election was made in the ad.
The lawsuit also accused the Bulletin of violating state law by not including a disclaimer on the ad stating who it had been purchased by. However, such disclaimers are required by law only when an ad calls for action for or against an issue or a candidate.
Buffalo Bulletin Publisher Robb Hicks, in an email to Cowboy State Daily, said he had not had a chance to review the lawsuit as of Tuesday was not yet be able to comment.