HLN host Nancy Grace has been saddled with a defamation lawsuit for airing a "selfie stalker" story, even after police told her the allegations were false.
The man Grace accused of being the "selfie stalker," Benjamin Seibert, is suing for more than $100,000 in damages, claiming that Grace and others published false allegations about him. According to the New York Post, Seibert was accused of invading a woman's home and taking a selfie on her phone. The photo turned out to be Seibert's Facebook photo, but the damage was already done.
Does Grace have a prayer in defending herself against Seibert's defamation suit?
Grace Likens Seibert to Serial Killer
Nancy Grace is fairly well-known for being a firebrand on her self-titled HLN show. The former prosecutor generally doesn't hold back on the vitriol when she gets a chance to present a story of criminal wrongdoing. The only problem in Seibert's case: He had nothing to do with the initial allegations.
The "selfie stalker" story surfaced after a woman notified Denver police in late January that she believed a man had broken into her home and left a picture of himself on her phone. According to The Denver Post, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers posted the alleged "stalker selfie" on its website and social media accounts. Grace then picked it up for her show, calling the picture "a textbook serial killer's calling card."
Turns out that the photo was simply one of Seibert's Facebook photos, which was not taken inside the woman's house. The New York Post reports that Seibert contacted Denver police after he learned of the investigation in early February, and police contacted Grace to tell her that the allegations were false.
Press Defense to Defamation?
While the press is not given any special privilege to publish defamatory statements, the courts have recognized that there is a difference between claims of defamation by public and private figures on matters of public interest. Grace may argue that since the allegations of the "selfie stalker" presented a cautionary tale to all Americans about home security, it was a matter of public interest.
However, since Seibert isn't a public figure, he would only need to prove that Grace and others were negligent in publishing this false story. If a court determines it was unreasonable for Grace to continue running the story after police informed her it was false, then she may be liable for defaming Seibert.
Retractions don't cost much Nancy, but this suit sounds pricey.