Judge dismisses ‘October Surprise’ libel suit
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. district judge in Washington, D.C., in early June dismissed a libel suit brought against Esquire magazine by Robert McFarlane, a national security adviser during the Reagan Administration.
The suit arose from an October 1991 article which alleged that Reagan-Bush campaign operatives negotiated a deal with Iran that delayed the release of American hostages until after the 1980 presidential election.
The article contained allegations that McFarlane, then an aide to Sen. John Tower, met with Iranian officials in Teheran. The article also contained an allegation that McFarlane had a “special relationship” with Israeli intelligence.
The court ruled that neither Esquire nor the author of the article published the report with actual malice, meaning with knowledge that it was false or in reckless disregard for the truth.
McFarlane’s charge that Esquire relied upon a single source, who may have been biased or unreliable, was insufficient to prove actual malice, the court held.
The court noted that the author tried to corroborate the charges, and had no information that either refuted the allegations or should have caused him to investigate further.
The court added that the source’s allegations were probable enough to prompt congressional investigations, and that McFarlane refused to be interviewed.
(McFarlane v. Esquire Magazine; Media Counsel: Bruce Sanford, Henry Hoberman, Washington)