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Grebner sues Dennis Lennox, two others for Wiki-based defamation

by: Eric B.

Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 08:23:48 AM EDT

I certainly hope the state's newspapers (i.e. the "Liberal Media") give Dennis Lennox as much free exposure for this as they did when he called for his job as drain commissioner to be eliminated to save taxpayer money ... without also pointing out that the day before he'd announced his candidacy for the state House.  Call it balance.

Longtime Ingham County Commissioner and Michigan political consultant Mark Grebner has filed a defamation lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court against three men for allegedly editing false and defamatory information into his biographical entry on Wikipedia.

The three defendants are Dennis Lennox, a Central Michigan University student who received a great deal of attention over the last few years for a string of politically-charged incidents on that campus and was elected Cheboygan County drain Commissioner last year; Bradley Dennis, a member of the Michigan State University College Republicans who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Grebner for the Ingham County Commission last fall; and MSU sophomore Anthony Giammarinaro.

Lennox allegedly inserted language into Grebner's Wiki page calling him a homosexual, Dennis allegedly ascribed a false political statement about taxation to him there, and Giammarinaro allegedly altered his Wiki page to say that Grebner had been convicted of molesting children.   In short, the three are being sued on the grounds of being incredibly childish.

For Lennox, this itself would be part of a long and storied career engaging in extra-political game playing. Most of us are familiar with his campaign to get Gary Peters fired, which failed in every respect except to create a squabble at CMU that prompted the permanent suspension of the Griffin Endowed Chair (that is, Lennox helped ruin what was an otherwise valuable program).  He also filed numerous frivilous complaints against CMU officials and professors, including Nancy White, who was running for the state House against incumbent Bill Caul. He is also said to have FOIA'd personnel records of various politically active CMU employees, including White and Garnet Lewis.  (Information about an incident involving a press report that said Gary Glenn has been accused of being an anti-Semite has been removed; the portions as they related to Dennis Lennox were accurate, although there appears to be no evidence that anyone has ever accused Gary Glenn of anti-Semitism.~Eric B.)  This is on top of generating free publicity for his current campaign for the state House not just by calling for the termination of his own job, but also denouncing a Genesee County plan to draw more water from Lake Huron (why this is newsworthy is anyone's guess).

There would be great irony here if Lennox did indeed alter Grebner's Wiki page to impugn his reputation by calling him a homosexual.  I'm not talking about the rumors that Lennox himself is a homosexual (rumors I've heard not just from political sources, but campus sources with no special axe to grind against him). Last year, someone left a comment and link to an off-site page in which the same was said about him, which prompted him to ask me to turn over the IP address of the person who created the thing.

Eric B. :: Grebner sues Dennis Lennox, two others for Wiki-based defamation
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My three cents on Grebner/Lennox...
Homosexuality is Defaming?
So Grebner is taking the Tom Cruise Approach to homosexuality? Other than it being false I don't see how it's defamatory. The other false Wiki-changes merit the lawsuit.

I love it when
I say controversial things and smart people agree with me. Oh happy day.

[ Parent ]
While the act of being called gay likely wouldn't be considered defamatory in itself, it could cause harm to someone involved in a heterosexual relationship.  More generally, a person could suffer harm from a public announcement of their sexual preference regardless of its validity.  Keep in mind that we live in a state where no civil rights protections exist for people that choose an alternative lifestyle.  So Grebner's lawsuit could be seen less as an statement that homosexuality is defaming and more of a statement that outing someone can be defaming and cause harm.  I see Grebner's lawsuit as being a progressive statement about the right to privacy.  

[ Parent ]
But Grebner is not homosexual. So he's not technically being outed. He's also very well-known in political circles. And how do you go about proving heterosexuality or homosexuality in a court of law? I look forward to seeing if the court will rule that Mark Grebner, like Tom Cruise,

"is not, and never has been, homosexual and has never had a homosexual affair."

This is not Liberace suing a columnist for being accused of homosexuality in the 1950's. This is 2009. Or are you saying that Michigan is stuck in the 1950's?  

[ Parent ]
Rich, many Michigan residents continue to have views toward homosexuality that may seem outdated to more progressive people.  Homosexuals continue to be denied employment, fired, denied housing, denied child custody, expelled from churches, harassed, assulted and even killed because of their sexuality.  Even the false perception of homosexuality often results in homophobic abuse.  The comments about Grebner on Wikipedia are not unique.  In at least three State House campaigns that I'm aware of over the past four years, similar tactics have been used against candidates.  The harm isn't in being or not being a homosexual; it's in the homophobic response such a public claim is intended to generate.

[ Parent ]
Oh, I'm not surprised that many Michigan residents have views that are outdated when it comes to homosexuality.

It seems quite clear that the intent from Lennox and company was to inflict harm on Grebner. The homosexuality charge alone would not be enough, but coupled with the others, the totality is to smear Grebner in the context of a state that passed Prop 2 as a pervert. Deposing these three goofballs for their views on homosexuality under oath would be fun to watch.

I take your point about the idea being to generate a homophobic response. I also take Ignatius' point about the implication that Grebner is unfaithful. He might lose some of the battles over the three claims, but will win the war by forcing the three idiots to cough up some dough for good attorneys.

Which also highlights something yet again: the GOP and their ilk still don't understand technology. You'd think by now they'd understand that there is no such thing as True Anonymity on the Internet, especially when using MSU computers (state assets). Plus, they picked a site to doctor that is really good at tracking people down. Wikipedia has highlighted when the CIA and other Federal agencies have made changes to Wikipedia pages.  

[ Parent ]
Brady is right
A special harm would exist if this is really a false statement that Grebner is unfaithful, regardless of preference.  That aside, if you are going to sue one SOB, you might as well sue them all, even if the different claims have varying degrees of strength.  The child molestation accusation would have bothered me enough to sue, and then why not kick alll of them in the pants?  

[ Parent ]
And you were doing so well...

... until you said this:

Keep in mind that we live in a state where no civil rights protections exist for people that choose an alternative lifestyle

Emphasis mine.

Brady dear, it's 2009.  Homosexuality is no longer considered a "lifestyle".  It's an immutable characteristic. We've clashed on a lot of issues (and agreed on a few as well).  Don't fall into the language trap - you are far too savvy for that.

Do stupid people know they are stupid?

[ Parent ]
Dear, I only put that out there to bait Stormy with the words "choose" and "lifestyle".  He doesn't like me because I refuse to read verbatim from the Gay Agenda.

To be fair though, one could argue that investing thousands of dollars in interior decorating and landscaping instead of children is indeed an "alternative lifestyle" and often a much better investment.

[ Parent ]
You're still operating under the assumption that you're worthy of my time and energy? How sweet, Brady. Next time just try flowers and/or candy.

[ Parent ]
Ah yes, the "Wealthy Gays" myth...
My circle of LGBT peeps is about as fabulous as it gets (*waves*) and yet aside from one really spectacular (as in "Metropolitan Home" spectacular) example, my gays spend their money on the same stuff the straights do - housing, kids, taxes, groceries and so forth.  If only life were what Hollywood and the media make it out to be...

Do stupid people know they are stupid?

[ Parent ]
By Your Own Words
So by your own public admission you do not mean the things you write? In that case, I guess we can all save ourselves time and just skip over anything further you have to say. I know I personally plan to do so.

And hmmm, a person who writes things they do not believe in just to provoke a response from others... that sounds familiar... is there a term for that or something? Trawler? Toll charge? Trolley? Something like that?

[ Parent ]
It appears to be all about intent...
It appears to me that the point of the lawsuit isn't to punish Dennis Lennox for calling Grebner a homosexual, but to introduce accountability for how people interact with sites like Wikipedia. Is it defamatory to call someone a homosexual?  Obviously, to Dennis Lennox it is (if he did it), or else he wouldn't have done it.  You can currently get away with that kind of shit on Wikipedia, however, because of the way it functions.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
I'll only comment once, but it's ironic that man of false pig fu**ing allegations would be talking about "accountability in the way people interact" on the net.  Under this rationale, I should have sued you to teach you a lesson and introduce some accountability to the blogosphere - and you can bet a few people suggested the strategy.  But I dismissed the idea forthright because it would be a waste of my time and people have to have somewhat of a thick skin.  Grebner should have recognized the same here.  His voter file and FOIA lawsuits of the past were good things - this is not his better moment in lawsuit filing decision-making.  

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't listen to the people who give you strategy advice, either
First off, people who find comments made about them to be genuinely defamatory don't repeat those comments every opportunity they get a chance.  They don't repeat them in a multiple number of places, and they don't continue to repeat it months after the original comment was made.  They contact the source behind-the-scenes and request a correction/retraction. They don't devote entire blog posts to making sure they continue to live in the public sphere.

They also don't write stuff like this about a comment they find defamatory:

I'm over the specific names you've called me - I repeat them here as hilarious evidence of your intolerance.  ...

I understand the pigs comment is an "analogy" - but its a particularly raunchy, nasty one that YOU CHOSE for rhetorical effect.

In short, you wrote that you were over that I connected behavior you endorse to a page from Lyndon Johnson's salacious campaign allegations, and understood that it wasn't a direct allegation.

Also, now it's part of the public record that any such lawsuit would be motivated on your part not by a genuine desire to see your good name cleared, but as an act of revenge.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
The difference
is that Eric was using sarcasm...whereas you are a little punk assed b*tch...

[ Parent ]
Who determines
Who determines what is sarcasm and not?  Mark Grebner? Senator McCarthy? The government?

Eric, you're logical inference that I have somehow said I seek revenge, or a lawsuit against you would be motivated by revenge, is missing a few chains. I never said that or any such thing, and am curious where you're evidence of such is. Whether I'm "over it" emotionally is hardly dispositive as to whether your statement was libelous or damaging me in other ways, although it might mitigate my claim of emotional damages, which Grebner laughably claims here.

And if people don't relay defamations against them, you might apply that point to your guy Mark Grebner, who has apparently issued press releases and copies of the complaint to various media outlets.  Most lawsuits go along their merry way without media attention - Grebner, perhaps to his credit for business purposes, is drumming up media on this one.  That means no damages before hand, and he's the one damaging himself now if indeed the thing is damaging. You rarely apply the same standards to your friends though that you apply to those you perceive as enemies.

[ Parent ]
I thought you said you were only going to comment once
Eric, you're logical inference that I have somehow said I seek revenge, or a lawsuit against you would be motivated by revenge, is missing a few chains. I never said that or any such thing, and am curious where you're evidence of such is.

...two comments above...
Under this rationale, I should have sued you to teach you a lesson and introduce some accountability to the blogosphere ... .

This is over a comment that you have already acknowledged that you understand to not be a direct accusation.

If you think you've been defamed, by all means I invite you to file a lawsuit.  Considering that you've said you are not offended by the comment in question, understood that it was an analogy and not a direct accusation, have never actually asked for a correction/retraction, said you'd be motivated by such a thing as a way to teach others a lesson rather than correct the public record, and frequently repeat the allegedly defamatory comment, I like my chances in court.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Politics aside,
would everyone please make an effort to remember that "you're" and "your" are two very different words?

[ Parent ]
Is Dennis Lennox Dick DeVos' gay lover?

Does Bradley Dennis blow goats in front of children?

Is Anthony Giammarinaro a Nazi hermaphrodite?

Some people have asked these questions...I think we deserve an answer!

Oh my!

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
The thing that surprised me most
was that Grebner has a wikipedia page...

Did he make it himself?  Can I make a wiki for eric b?  

Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living. - Mother Jones

[ Parent ]
I haven't read the official complaint, so I can only go by what is linked. I have no checked Michigan case law on defamation, but there is an "actual malice" standard for public figures (like Greber, who holds public office) that makes things tough to prove.  

1. This one is interesting. Is the term "homosexual" defamatory? It likely depends on the community standards. The standard would likely be Ingham County (but Michigan statewide could be argued for business reasons), one of the more friendly communities in Michigan on gay related issues. If Grebner was gay, would it hurt him in Ingham County? Probably not. Statewide in his consulting business? Could be a jury question. Also, is the term "homosexual" considered name-calling/insult or "mere epithet" equivalent to calling someone a wimp or unmanly and not accusing the person of actually being gay? That's another question.

2. Based on what I've seen on Ed's story, I think the Bradley Dennis case will likely be dismissed, and if I was him, would look into anti-SLAAP measures in response and fire both barrells at him. The case law is not friendly to Grebner there. I can say that even without researching the County Commissioner records.

3. IF Anthony Giammarinaro made the statement he's accused of making, he better find his wallet. That one is loud and clear. Conviction is either a true statement or not. Personally, I think Grebner should have stuck with strictly this in the lawsuit. You don't get more defamatory than to accuse someone of this.

4. The Bin Ladin picture is satire. That will get tossed. It's just that unbelievable.

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP

...palin, sandford...man, the right just keeps on giving and giving and giving--on the local level right on up to the national level.

hilarity and popcorn for all!  

if you want to speculate any thing about lennox i would speculate that he was never picked up as a baby. The back of his head is so flat if it wasnt the size of a pea it could replace bonneville.

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