Like a tenacious gnat, the Arnold Schwarzenegger baby-daddy drama won’t go away. One of Schwarzenegger’s former employees, Tammy Tousignant, filed a $10 million defamation claim against several, high-profile media outlets for republishing speculations that she had the Governor’s baby nineteen years ago.
And it looks like Tousignant may have a legitimate libel claim.
The Celebrity Defamation Incident in 2003
Rumors of The Gover-nator’s philandering didn’t start with Patty Baena. Back in 2003, the National Enquirer and Daily Mail published stories about a flight attendant named Tammy Tousignant, who worked on Schwarzenegger’s private jet. The “gossip rags” alleged that Tousignant’s 11-year-old son was her boss’ kid. Tousignant immediately denied the rumors, then took a polygraph test and passed. To bury the rumor, Tousignant even produced a paternity test proving that Schwarzenegger was not the baby-daddy.
The tabloids backed down, published a retraction, and that was the end of that. Or so the involved parties thought…
New Defamation Claims
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times broke news that Schwarzenegger did, indeed, have a love child with a former employee. Journalists and gossip columnists speculated as to who the woman could be. John Cook at Gawker Media researched and came across the Tousignant story; he decided to republish the article from 2003.
Tousignant contacted Gawker and offered to provide evidence proving the story was false. According to Tousignant, Gawker allegedly responded by saying, “We haven’t seen the results of the test, and we have no idea who is right.” She insists that she then offered to send them the test results, but never heard back. So, she filed a defamation lawsuit alleging that the articles were re-published “intentionally, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for the truthfulness of the statements therein.”
Tousignant is asking for $10 million.
Defamation Law in the United States
It will be interesting to see if a judge waves this celebrity defamation case through to trial.
In the United States, plaintiffs must satisfy several requirements to win a defamation lawsuit – and the rules change depending on the plaintiff’s status as either a public or private figure.
If the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must prove “actual malice” — meaning the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knowingly made false statements with the intent to cause harm.
Both private and public figure plaintiffs, however, must prove that the defamatory statements caused material harm.
In this celebrity defamation case, it’s possible that a judge will determine Ms. Tousignant to be a limited purpose public figure. Her legal team, however, will undoubtedly argue the opposite since she didn’t ask to be thrust into the spotlight.
Are you embroiled in reputation battle? Kelly / Warner Law can help. We have a wealth of experience with defamation cases. Time matters when it come to libel lawsuits – the longer you wait, the worse off you are. And don’t forget the relatively short statute of limitations in defamation cases.
Contact us now to get your online or celebrity defamation issues resolved.