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BUCKLEY v. VIDAL

May 13, 1971

William F. BUCKLEY, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Gore VIDAL, Defendant


Levet, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVET

LEVET, District Judge.

This is a motion by plaintiff, pursuant to Rule 56, F.R. Civ. P. seeking summary judgment dismissing each of defendant's four counterclaims on the ground that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 The gravamen of each counterclaim is an alleged defamation by Buckley of Vidal. The first three counterclaims all have to do with Buckley's comments on Vidal's published writing, and particularly, Vidal's novel, Myra Breckinridge. The fourth has to do with Buckley's letter to the publisher of the New York Review of Books asking that publisher to confer with Buckley before publishing a manuscript submitted by Vidal which Buckley felt was damaging to his reputation; the letter characterizes the manuscript as defamatory and untrue.

 Plaintiff contends that the utterances were, in each instance, privileged. As to the first three counterclaims, plaintiff asserts the privilege of fair comment. As to the fourth, plaintiff relies on the privilege which grows out of an individual's legal interest in protecting his reputation.

 The specific statements by plaintiff which form the basis of defendant's counterclaims are as follows:

 As a first counterclaim Vidal alleges that in a television broadcast some time in August 1968, Buckley made the following statement:

 
"Let Myra Breckinridge [referring to the novel bearing such name and thereby identifying its author, Gore Vidal, with such novel] go back to his pornography * * *."

 The second counterclaim refers to the following two utterances which appear in various versions of a manuscript which was eventually published in Esquire magazine:

 
"Vidal and I awaited the sound of the bell. * * * there and then I resolved in hitting him back hard with a tu quoque involving Myra Breckinridge -- which I had not yet read, thinking it simply a pornographic potboiler done for money * * *." *fn1"
 
"Let Myra Breckinridge [referring to the novel bearing such name and thereby identifying its author, Gore Vidal, with such novel] go back to his pornography * * *."

 As the basis of the third counterclaim it is alleged that Buckley made the following statement in a television broadcast in August 1968:

 
"When I see the sort of gimmick, I do not think it is right to present Mr. Gore Vidal as a political commentator of any consequence since he is nothing more than a literary producer of perverted Hollywood-minded prose."

 The fourth counterclaim is based on a letter from Buckley to the publisher of the New York Review of Books and to the publishers of certain other magazines. The letter read as follows:

 
"Last August, I was defamed on network television by Mr. Gore Vidal. Mr. Vidal has not retracted his libel nor apologized to me. On the contary, he has sought to give renewed currency to that libel and to launch others, to which end he submitted a manuscript to Esquire magazine which Esquire declined to publish because it was defamatory and untrue. Mr. Vidal's activities have left me with no other recourse than to a lawsuit, and accordingly I have filed suit against Mr. Vidal for five hundred thousand dollars in damage. I advise you of these proceedings because I have been informed that Mr. Vidal is bent upon circulating charges about me which are absolutely untrue. I write to register my willingness to cooperate with you in any way -- indeed, I earnestly request that you hear me out -- so as to guard against your journal's inadvertently circulating Mr. Vidal's defamatory material.
 
"Yours faithfully,
 
Wm. F. ...

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