On Wednesday, the media was filled with the news that Judith Regan has filed a $100 million lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan against her former employers at HarperCollins.
The introduction to the lawsuit says, "This action arises from a deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by one of the world's largest media conglomerates for the sole purpose of destroying one woman's credibility and reputation. This campaign was necessary to support News Corp.'s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions."
Talk about starting off with a hook guaranteed to interest your readers.
In case you've forgotten who Judith Regan is, she's the publisher who put together the deal for If I Did It, O.J. Simpson's book, along with proposing a Fox television show to promote the book. The public outcry over the book and the TV special was so great that News Corporation's HarperCollins cancelled both and subsequently fired Regan.
You can read my post about Regan's firing here along with a later post here about HarperCollins' dismantling of ReganBooks, Judith's imprint.
This shoe took a really long time to fall. The Wall Street Journal ran a story last December 18th, reporting that Regan had hired Hollywood attorney Bert Fields to sue her former employers for unlawfully firing her.
Fields is no stranger to the spotlight. According to Wikipedia, he represented "Jeffrey Katzenberg in landmark action against Disney and obtained multi-million dollar judgement for George Harrison against his former business manager...Fields also represented Michael Jackson during contract talks with Sony Music in the early 1990s, as well as during the 1993 child molestation allegations..."
According to MSNBC.com, The reason given for Regan's firing was anti-Jewish comments she made during a telephone conversation with HarperCollins' lawyer Mark Jackson, "who took notes."
Regan's newly filed lawsuit takes a different view. She accuses three defendants, including Murdoch's News Corporation and HarperCollins Publishers, of smearing her to advance the Murdoch political agenda and protect Rudy Giuliani.
I doubt it's an accident that Regan chose this moment to file her lawsuit. It's now almost exactly a year before the next presidential election. A week ago today Regan's ex-lover, Bernard Kerik, former police commissioner under Rudolph Giuliani, was indicted on sixteen federal charges ranging from official corruption to theft of services to tax evasion.
Giuliani appointed Kerik police commissioner on August 21, 2000, and Kerik left office at the end of Giuliani's term on December 31, 2001. In 2001, the married Kerik began a year-long affair with Regan while the two were working on his memoir, The Lost Son, which was published in that same year. The affair was still ongoing during the 9/11 attack on New York. One of the more salacious details that came out later was that the couple had used an apartment overlooking Ground Zero, which had been donated for use of the relief workers, as their love nest.
The affair was long over by December 4, 2004 when Kerik was nominated by President Bush to be U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Kerik withdrew his name from consideration a week later, after it was discovered he had hired an undocumented worker as a nanny.
Regan's lawsuit claims that her employers at HarperCollins and News Corporation knew about her affair with Kerik and wanted to protect Giuliani's chances to become president. “In fact, a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”
In a New York Times story published the day the lawsuit was filed, it's reported that "One of Ms. Regan’s lawyers, Brian C. Kerr of the firm of Dreier L.L.P., said she had evidence to support her claim that she had been advised to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Mr. Kerik and who might have sought to question her about their romantic involvement."
In actuality, the Giuliani/Kerik claims are a very small part of the lawsuit. Think of them as the attention-getters. Ms. Regan has spent twenty years in the publishing industry and knows the value of publicity. The timing of the lawsuit immediately following Kerik's indictment guarantees maximum public attention.
A year ago, The New York Times reported, "Legal scholars and prominent litigators said that proving libel is extremely difficult, but it opens the door to a public airing of the litigants’ private affairs."
You can browse Regan's 75-page filing here courtesy of The New York Times.
She names three defendents: HarperCollins Publishers, their parent News Corporation and Jane Friedman, to whom Regan reported.
Stay tuned for more...