Buzzfeed has asked a news agency to provide it with ten years of email correspondence to help it defend an $11m defamation action.
British news agency journalist Michael Leidig is suing Buzzfeed in the US over an article which described him as “The King of Bullshit News”, alleging that many of the stories provided by his agency – Central European News – were false.
Buzzfeed is trying to argue that the story is protected under US law because Leidig is a “public figure”. His lawyers argue that he is not and that the story is untrue and defamatory.
They are seeking summary judgment in his favour.
CEN’s lawyer Harry Wise argued in legal submission that defamation was “the central and obvious intention of the publication”.
He added: “Buzzfeed would not have published a story that Mr Leidig is a competent journalist who occasionally falls victim to a hoax, or accidentally reports an asserted fact that some else has gotten wrong, or (like the New York Times which, each day, reports its previous mistakes on page two) sometimes errs.”
CEN contends in its legal argument that a story about two Russian woman who posed nude in the street was widely reported first on Russian media, so could not have been made up by CEN.
It similarly argues that a story about a man becoming infected with tape worm after eating salami was true and that Buzzfeed has not offered any evidence to the contrary.
Wise says that Buzzfeed has asked for ten years of correspondence between CEN as part of “over the top” discovery requests which he said were a “fishing expedition”.
Leidig is seeking $5m for serious damage to his reputation, $5m for damage to the reputation of CEN and $1m in special damages for specified losses to the business.
CEN is also seeking further punitive damages, to be assessed by a jury, because it says Buzzfeed “maliciously intended that its publication injure CEN’s business in Great Britain and elsewhere” and knew that its “own business would increase” as a result.
Buzzfeed has said it stands by the piece in its entirety.