A federal appeals
court has ruled a defamation lawsuit California pastor Frederick K.C. Price
filed against ABC and its former 20/20 correspondent John Stossel can move forward.
Price, founding pastor of
Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, claims his words were taken out of
context in a 2007 20/20 report about businessmen, pastors and
politicians who seem to live extravagant lifestyles.
“Enough” segment, 20/20 showed Price, who is well-known for his teaching
on financial prosperity, telling a crowd: “I live in a 25-room mansion. I have
my own $6 million yacht. I have my own private jet, and I have my own
helicopter, and I have seven luxury automobiles.”
It was not clear in
the clip, however, that Price was preaching about a hypothetical person who was
unfulfilled despite his wealth. ABC ultimately ran a correction. Stossel now
works for Fox Business Network.
In its decision
Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the context in which Price’s
words were presented materially changed their meaning.
“Because Price has a reasonable possibility of proving that the Clip, as
broadcast, was false, and because Defendants relied exclusively on the issue of
non-falsity in their motion to dismiss … we must reverse the dismissal of the
express defamation claim and remand,” the court ruled.
Anthony Glassman, said ABC must now produce editor notes and footage to determine
whether the network intended to air false statements, Reuters news service reported.
“It’s been a
long, hard struggle and we look forward to trying this case against Mr. Stossel
and ABC News,” Glassman said.
An ABC spokesman
said the network is confident it will prevail, noting that the court did not
comment on whether Price could satisfy other conditions of a defamation lawsuit.
The case will now return to the lower court.