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Judge dismisses filmmaker’s suit against Kerry

A federal judge dismissed a filmmaker’s defamation lawsuit against Sen. John Kerry, who the filmmaker says blocked the release of his documentary during the campaigning period.
John Kerry
2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., delivers a speech on health care in Boston on July 31.Chitose Suzuki / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal judge dismissed a filmmaker’s defamation lawsuit against Sen. John Kerry, saying remarks linked to Kerry’s campaign during the heat of the 2004 presidential race amount to political opinions.

Filmmaker Carlton Sherwood sued Kerry and John Podesta, an aide who ran the Massachusetts Democrat’s campaign in Pennsylvania.

Sherwood accused them of blocking the release of his documentary about Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War activities by labeling Sherwood a “disgraced journalist” and a “Bush hack.”

The Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. canceled plans to air the documentary “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal” on its stations before the November 2004 election.

U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam said he found no evidence that Kerry personally made any of the statements, and furthermore, found that they were protected opinions.

Candidate separate from press releases
“I do not believe any of these statements are actionable since they constitute expressions of opinion, and must be viewed in the context of a hard-fought political campaign,” Fullam wrote in a ruling issued Thursday.

“More importantly, I am not aware of any basis for holding a political candidate personally responsible for statements made in press releases issued by his party’s national committee,” the judge wrote.

Kerry created a fund earlier this year to pay to defend himself against Sherwood’s lawsuit.

Kerry spokesman David Wade said the ruling showed the courts would not be “hijacked” by Sherwood’s agenda.

Sherwood’s lawyer, Howard Scher of Philadelphia, said no decision has been made about whether to appeal.