Texas high court won't revive suit against Phil Donahue for invasion of privacy

Privacy | Feature | November 30, 1993

Texas high court won't revive suit against Phil Donahue for invasion of privacy


TEXAS -- In mid-November the Texas Supreme Court in Austin refused to hear an appeal from a mother and son whose invasion of privacy claim against Phil Donahue's talk show was rejected by the state's lower courts.

The woman, Nancy Anonsen, and her son had sued her mother, Miriam Booher, as well as Donahue and others connected with the "Donahue" show, for invasion of privacy through the public disclosure of private facts after a January 1989 broadcast on which Booher appeared. Booher revealed that her husband had raped and impregnated Anonsen, her daughter from a past marriage, when she was 11 years old and that Booher and her husband had then adopted the subsequent baby boy.

In June 1993 the Texas Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed a trial court's grant of summary judgment for the defendants.

The appeals court found that Booher herself was a "victim[] of the family tragedy of incest." The court observed that protecting Booher's right to tell her story would impose emotional suffering upon others. But the court held that Booher had a right to tell her personal story. In the context of that story, the court concluded, Booher's disclosure of private facts about people involved in her life was protected by the First Amendment.

"[T]o hold otherwise," the appeals court wrote, "would be to imply that one's autobiography must be written anonymously."

After the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the case, David Berg, an attorney for Nancy Anonsen, told the Associated Press he would seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Anonsen v. Donahue; Media Counsel: James R. George, Julie A. Ford, Austin)