The Internet site ProBush.com likes to make fun of celebrities and politicians who oppose President Bush’s foreign policy. It calls them traitors, but not in the legal sense. The website includes a disclaimer that, “This site is meant as a parody and as political speech, and does not intend to express the view that anyone listed is actually guilty of any crime.” The content is not to be taken seriously. It features the funny quote: “We hate Bush haters.” But some people aren’t laughing.
When the website put former Sen. James Abourezk’s name on what it called a “traitor’s list,” Abourezk sued ProBush.com and its publisher, Michael Marino, for defamation. He’s seeking $5 million in damages and the removal of his name from the website. In our opinion, however, this is a frivolous lawsuit that should be rejected. Abourezk claims that the intent of the website is to injure his standing in the community but it’s difficult to see how this is the case. The site is designed to make fun of people. He will have a difficult, if not impossible, job of proving that ProBush.com was guilty of a malicious attempt to damage his reputation. Indeed, the suit has only served to resurrect stories about the Senator’s long and controversial history.
The Daily Star of Beirut reported on a controversial trip he made to Lebanon in 2002. Abourezk, of Lebanese origin, met with top leaders there, calling for a radical change in Washington’s policies. Jeff Gannon of Talon News reports that Abourezk voiced support for Hezbollah, a terrorist group, and its alleged positive role in Lebanon. Hezbollah, he said, “was like the tool that forced the Israelis to withdraw.”
His critics say that his travels to the Middle East have been used by anti-American regimes to damage U.S. foreign policy. He has traveled to Iraq under Saddam and was quoted as saying a U.S. attack on Saddam would be “immoral.” What was immoral was that Saddam had bilked more than $11 billion out of the U.N.’s oil-for-food program?money that could have been used to alleviate the suffering of his countrymen.
A strong opponent of Israel and its lobby in Washington, Abourezk has reportedly complained that the U.S. media are “dominated by the Israeli media machine” and that the solution to terrorism against Israel is for Israel to “get the hell out of the occupied territories.” “It’s not a wonder there are suicide bombers, it’s a wonder there aren’t many more,” he was quoted as saying.
Speaking of treason, the Washington Post reported that after Vice President Walter Mondale broke a tie on a piece of legislation, Abourezk, then a South Dakota senator, felt betrayed and cried “treason.” Interestingly, Jane Fonda has now joined the lawsuit against ProBush.com Like Abourezk, Fonda was labeled a “traitor” on the site. Of course, Fonda is remembered bitterly by many veterans for her support of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, leading to her being called “Hanoi Jane.” She’s waited this long to be concerned about being labeled a “traitor.” That would be funny if this lawsuit were not so serious and threatening to the First Amendment.