Press Box

Richard Perle Libel Watch, Week 2

A suggested itinerary for libel tourist Richard Perle.

One week ago, Richard Perle informed his pals at the New York Sunof his intention to sue Seymour Hersh, alleging that the investigative journalist libeled him in a New Yorker feature. Perle—no fan of international law, if his views on the United Nations are any indication—said he was “talking to Queen’s Counsel right now” about filing his case in a British court instead of a red, white, and blue one because it’s easier for a plaintiff to win there than here.

This column double-dared Perle to sue Hersh, noting that in recent years British courts have rebuffed forum-shopping libel tourists like Perle. In retrospect, it seems obvious that Perle sounded his libel bluff to 1) discourage other journalists from writing about his business affairs; and 2) deflect attention away from Richard Perle and toward Sy Hersh.

Based on a Nexis search of U.S. and British publications, Perle has yet to file his suit. But until Perle withdraws his baseless threat, we should take him at his word and chart the progress of his legal action—and even give him a few helpful suggestions on where he might want to file if the Brits reject his case.

Singapore is a libel paradise, sunny 12 months a year, and they speak English! Singapore authorities have chastened the New York Times, Dow Jones, and the International Herald Tribune with defamation lawsuits. Bloomberg LP folded spectacularly last fall when faced with a Singapore lawsuit filed by several government officials. Only three weeks elapsed between publication and the settlement of $340,000. (Note to Perle: The offending article, written in the United States, wasn’t even printed in Singapore. It appeared only on Bloomberg machines and in a Malaysian newspaper. That makes it a lot like your case!)

Next stop, New Zealand, where a 1992 law conveniently neglected to define defamation clearly. Plaintiffs tend to win big settlements in New Zealand, and the scenery is as picturesque as it is in the south of France, where Perle keeps a vacation home. The wine is good but not great.

Finally, no libel cruise is complete without a visit to Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyztan is stable enough to have a functional legal system and backward enough to make it pay handsomely for plaintiffs—especially plaintiffs who are connected to government officials. Kyrgyztan courts often shut down the offending publications. One drawback: A Kyrgyztan legal judgment, like one in New Zealand or Singapore, would not be enforcable in the United States, and Hersh and The New Yorker presumably have few assets in Kyrgyztan.

Happy forum shopping!


Earlier in Slate

In Week 1 of “The Richard Perle Libel Watch,” Press Box double-dared Perle to sue Hersh.


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