Presidential Tryst Story Was Political Hit Job, Woman Says in Suing Tabloid for Defamation
By MARIMER MATOS
November 12, 2010
(Vera Baker seeks punitive damages. She is represented by Thomas Tucker Ronzetti of Coral Gables and Neville Johnson of Beverly Hills)
MIAMI (CN) – President Obama’s political rivals fabricated a sex scandal about a former campaign worker, the woman says in a defamation complaint against the Globe tabloid. Vera Baker says the “story came from one of Obama’s political opponents. Defendants had a complete disregard for the harm that the story would cause Baker because it was looking for anything they could use to sully the reputation of President Obama, even if it meant harming others.”
Baker says the scandal sheet published an article in its May 10 issue in which the “defendants deliberately intended to convey the impression that Baker and President Obama had a sexual encounter at a hotel, which was known to be false.”
The Globe published the story with multiple headlines, including “Cheating scandal erupts” and “Secret video could destroy presidency,” though there was no cheating, no scandal, and no video, Baker says.
Baker cites eight other “offending statements” from the Globe’s May 10 issue, including the headline: “Obama & Beauty Hotel Tryst Scandal.” She sued American Media and Globe Communications in Dade County Court.
Other offending statements cited in the complaint include: “In a bombshell development, Vera recently returned to Washington, D.C., after reportedly being ‘exiled’ to Martinique by Obama’s wife before the presidential campaign.” And: “Concluded a friend of the Obamas: ‘When Vera worked for Obama on his Senate campaign, he fell hard for her. Vera knew he was married, but Barack was the one who made a fool of himself.”
The complaint continues: “The May 10 Offending Statements are libelous on their face. Additionally, because the May 10 Offending Statements imply that Baker engaged in adultery, they are libelous per se.”
Another offending statement cited in the complaint is: “A top D.C. source, with knowledge of the events, told GLOBE the limo driver’s account has been independently corroborated by investigators, who believe the couple spent the night together at The Hotel George.”
The Globe articles and headlines “insinuate that Baker had a romantic encounter with President Obama at a hotel and that there is evidence (i.e., a videotape) that supports the assertion that there was an affair,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses in complaint.)
But Baker says the Globe printed the story with “actual malice,” knowing it was untrue: “it was aware that there was no ‘secret video’ that contained evidence of an affair. Nevertheless, defendants acted recklessly by stating that there was such a ‘secret video’ footage on the sister-publication National Enquirer’s website and then later removing that information and then later re-inserting information about a video, with the caveat that no such video may actually exist. Moreover, in the face [of] such contradictory information, defendants did not even attempt to confirm the existence of a ‘secret video’ before stating that they had such ‘evidence’ to corroborate their story. Instead, they ran the story stating that there [was] a ‘secret video’ when they did not know whether a ‘secret video’ did, in fact, exist.”
She says the Globe refused her requests for a correction, apology or retraction. Instead, the story “occupied the cover of Globe for three consecutive weeks.”
Baker says the “genesis of this story came from one of Obama’s political opponents. Defendants had a complete disregard for the harm that the story would cause Baker because it was looking for anything they could use to sully the reputation of President Obama, even if it meant harming others.”
Baker seeks punitive damages. She is represented by Thomas Tucker Ronzetti of Coral Gables and Neville Johnson of Beverly Hills.