AZ Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Against KFYI’s James T. Harris
As reported by Tucson.com, the defamation suit filed against KFYI-AM, Phoenix talk host James T. Harris by failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy has been dismissed by the Arizona Supreme Court. Harris hosts “The Conservative Circus” program on the iHeartMedia news/talk station. Harris was critical of McCarthy on his radio program in the wake of a local State Capitol rally that took place after the 2020 elections. McCarthy claimed that Harris uttered nine statements that qualified as slander in a suit first allowed to go forward by a Phoenix trial court judge. Harris and iHeartMedia appealed, arguing the case should be dismissed as Harris’ statements “were rhetorical hyperbole incapable of being proved false and protected by the First Amendment, and were therefore not actionable.” The State Supreme Court agreed unanimously. Justice William Montgomery wrote, “Under the First Amendment, apparently factual statements must be considered in light of the nature in which the speaker uttered them and the relationship of the statements to the overall context. Here, the nature of the words is colored by the context of an overtly political talk show.” But he also stated, “We do not suggest that the First Amendment provides categorical protection to anything that may be said on a political talk show,” adding a ruling from another case saying, “Candidates cannot make defamatory assertions they hope voters will believe, then, when sued for defamation, seek refuge in the defense that no one believes what politicians say.” Read the full story here.