Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.
The United States Court of Appeals has overturned a federal judge's ruling that ended a wealthy Southern California preacher's defamation lawsuit against ABC "20/20" and former correspondent John Stossel.
Judge R. Gary Klausner had decided that even though Stossel's broadcast took the words of Frederick K.C. Price out of context the television evangelist was out of luck because the words, while misused, nevertheless were "substantially true."
A three-member panel at the Ninth Circuit appeals court disagreed today.
The controversy centers on a March 2007 broadcasted clip of Price uttering this:
"I live in a 25-room mansion. I have my own $6 million yacht. I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles."
Trouble was that in the clip Price was speaking hypothetically about a wealthy person who was spiritually unsatisfied.
ABC later repeatedly apologized but the evangelist sued in July 2007.
In court, the network argued that Price's words, while taken out of context, were generally an accurate description of the evangelist's lifestyle.
Price, who calls himself "the prophet of prosperity" and who founded the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, owns an 8,000-square-foot home with $4.6 million, travels the world in his own Gulfstream jet, drives a Rolls Royce, wears an $8,500 watch and describes himself as CEO of a $40 million corporation, his church.
But the Ninth Circuit panel (dominated by two Democrat presidential appointees) determined that Judge Klausner had prematurely ended the suit because Stossel and ABC presented Price's "statement in a misleading context, thereby changing the viewer's understanding of the speaker's words."
They ordered the case reopened.
Stossel is no longer with ABC. He has a show on Fox News.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly