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Aug 24, 2010 9:59 PM by Alison Haynes

Calif. preacher can sue ABC for defamation

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday
reinstated a Los Angeles preacher's defamation lawsuit against
ABC's news program "20/20" over a video clip.
The Rev. Frederick Price of the Crenshaw Christian Center
accuses the TV newsmagazine and reporter John Stossel of playing a
clip from his sermon out of context. The video appeared to show the
leader of the 18,000-member megachurch boasting about his vast
wealth.
The clip actually was part of a sermon on greed and didn't
include any of Price's personal information.
A trial court dismissed the lawsuit in 2007, ruling the video
was "substantially true" because Price has boasted elsewhere
about his wealth - going so far at to proclaim himself a "prophet
of prosperity."
Court records show that Price owns an 8,000 square-foot house
worth $4.6 million, drives a Rolls Royce, wears an $8,500 watch and
travels the world in a Gulfstream jet owned by the church, which he
describes as a $40 million operation.
Nevertheless, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
Tuesday that the clip portrayed Price falsely and sent the case
back to the trial judge to determine if Price was defamed and
suffered any damage to his reputation.
The appeals court noted that many defamation and libel lawsuits
prompted by erroneous reporting are still dismissed because the
subject matter, taken as a whole, turns out to be "substantially
true" and doesn't portray the subject falsely.
But the analysis changes dramatically when a subject's direct
quotations are altered, the appeals court said. Altering a quote or
airing the Price clip out of context automatically makes the
passage false, the court said. The "20/20" report said Price was
boasting about his wealth when in fact he was delivering a
fictional sermon. The court said there is nothing "substantially
true about that claim."
"Where the published quotation contains a material alteration
of the meaning conveyed by the speaker, the published quotation is
false," Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the unanimous three-judge
panel. "Here, the context in which Price's words were presented
materially changed the words' meaning."
ABC senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider said the Walt
Disney Co.-owned network would prevail again in the trial court.

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