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Governor settles suit with talk-show host

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Governor settles suit with talk-show host

  • Network tried to cancel TV talk-show during gubernatorial election after the show’s host criticized the Republican governor in a speech to Young Democrats.

July 17, 2003 — Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and a public television network agreed to pay $15,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming the Republican governor’s office pressured the network to cancel a talk show hosted by a Democrat, an attorney for the talk-show host said.

A federal district court in Little Rock, Ark., dismissed the suit on Monday. Arkansas Educational Television Network officials told talk-show host Roby Brock in April 2002 that his business talk show would not be aired until after the election.

The cancellation announcement came three days after Brock told a group of Young Democrats he couldn’t “stomach” another four years of Huckabee and urged the group to support the governor’s democratic challenger. A newspaper covered the event and published the statements by Brock, a former president of the Young Democrats.

“The First Amendment protects people for having the temerity to say they don’t like the current regime,” Brock’s attorney, Morgan “Chip” Welch,” said. “It’s not a crime in Arkansas to have the temerity to say you’re not going to vote for Governor Huckabee.”

The district court issued a temporary injunction in April 2002 that allowed the show to stay on the air after the court heard evidence that four of Huckabee’s aides had complained to the public television station and the show’s sponsors about Brock’s politics.

Welch said the defendants already paid $16,000 in attorney’s fees last year. The settlement included a guarantee that Brock’s show will continue through September 2004.

Huckabee had testified that he was not aware of a coordinated effort to have the show canceled, and the settlement denies any wrongdoing by the governor’s office and the other defendants.

Jim Harris, the governor’s spokesman, said in a statement that the public television network’s insurance carrier paid the settlement. He also called the lawsuit “nonsense.”

Welch had different words: “It’s unfortunate that our governor has a history of retribution against ordinary folks who are perceived as enemies.”

(Brock v. Huckabee; Media counsel: Morgan Welch, Eubanks, Welch, Backer & Schulze LLP, Little Rock, Ark.) KH

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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