Ordinarily, I compose new installments of the Richard Perle Libel Watch only when inspired by a news story about the man. I need something meaty, such as his possible legal exposure in the Hollinger scandal (Week 34), his resignation from the Defense Policy Board chair (Week 4), or the questions about the overlap between his official and private duties (Week 9). But with the one-year statute of limitations expiring on March 10 for Perle’s threat to sue Seymour M. Hersh for libel for his New Yorker feature, “Lunch With the Chairman,” Perle’s legal passivity provides me with all the news hook I require.
When Perle made his threat, the New York Sun acted as his process server by publishing a March 12, 2003, news story announcing Perle’s intention to sue Hersh in the United Kingdom. “I’m talking to Queen’s Counsel right now,” the Perle told the Sun. Perle said he was filing in the U.K. because it’s an easier venue than U.S. courts for libel plaintiffs. That’s true, but in recent years English courts have turned back flagrant cases of venue shopping by U.S. libel law consumers.
For a news story, the Sun piece was vague about how the piece libeled Perle. Even Perle was vague. When the paper asked him what part of the story was incorrect, he generalized: “It’s all lies, from beginning to end.”
The day after the Sun published Perle’s threat, I called Perle a libel bully inSlate, predicted that he’d never sue, and knocked the Sun for running a story predicated on somebody’s fuzzy intention to sue rather than an actual filing. (The Sun’s Page 2 hed for the story was “Perle Suing Over New Yorker Article.”) At the time I asked Sun Managing Editor Ira Stoll if Perle failed to sue Hersh, would it be worthy of a Sun story, and he said yes. So, the Perle Libel Watch countdown applies to both Richard Perle and to the Sun. I await with great enthusiasm the forthcoming Sun news story, “Perle Renews New Yorker Subscription Instead of Suing.”
Time is almost up, Mr. Perle. Sue or get off the pot!
Maybe Perle intends to sue Hersh in the afterworld. Send your speculations to firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)