“Truth—The Best Defense” by James Jay Schifrin

image023Last week in Los Angeles, Muck Raker, political columnist for the Patronage County Innuendo, testified in comedienne Harriett Hairnett’s $10 million libel suit against the National Enquirer.

Ms. Harinett called Raker as an expert witness, because he regularly commented on people in public life.

The Enquirer also asked Raker to appear. In fact, he was their whole defense.

The court reporter red the disputed Enquirer gossip column: “At a post Washington restaurant, an obnoxious Harriett Hairnett had a drunken shouting match with another diner, Adrian Messenger, Then she traipsed around the place taking a bit out of everyone’s dessert. But Harriett really raised eyebrows when she accidently fell all over another diner—and started giggling instead of apologizing. The guy wasn’t amused and accidentally punched her in the mouth.

“You heard the article, Mr. Raker,” said Ms Harinett’s attorney. “What do you think of it.”

“Catchy style, but $10 million is too much. That’s more than $160,000 a word.”

“Tell me this,” said the attorney. “Would you have written it?”

“I don’t know, sir. I wasn’t there.”

“Object, your honor,” argued the Enquirer attorney. “Mr. Raker often writes about politicians without being there, Then he calls them crooks. If he doesn’t get sued for what he writes, we shouldn’t either.”

“Objection overruled,” said the judge. “The difference is for as politician to sue Mr. Raker, the politician would have to prove he wasn’t telling the truth.”

This op-ed column first appeared in the feisty Mt. Washington Press on March 25, 1981.