Birthers Sue Esquire Over Parody, Seeking More than $200 Million

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Recession Still Not Over Since 2009

Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi have some pretty interesting beliefs. They believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not there's no proof Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.* They also believe Hearst Corp. and a writer it employs ought to pay them hundreds of millions of dollars for making fun of them for believing that first part.

Farah, the CEO of WorldNetDaily.com, and Corsi, author of "Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President," have filed suit against Hearst, Esquire magazine and writer Mark Warren over a satirical article that they say defamed them and damaged their business interests. They're seeking compensatory damages of $100 million and punitive damages of $20 million, plus legal costs. [Update: As a commenter points out, that's only for one of the five counts; the full amount sought totals more than $285 million.]

Warren published the article on May 18, 2011, just after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, answering the doubts of Corsi and other so-called birthers. An Onion-style parody, it was headlined "BREAKING! Jerome Corsi's Birther Book Pulled From Shelves!"

As often happens with satire on the internet, the article was received my many readers (or non-reading reTweeters) as straight news, forcing Esquire to add an update "for those who didn't figure it out yet":

We committed satire this morning to point out the problems with selling and marketing a book that has had its core premise and reason to exist gutted by the news cycle, several weeks in advance of publication. Are its author and publisher chastened? Well, no. They double down, and accuse the President of the United States of perpetrating a fraud on the world by having released a forged birth certificate. Not because this claim is in any way based on reality, but to hold their terribly gullible audience captive to their lies, and to sell books. This is despicable, and deserves only ridicule.

In their suit, Farah and Corsi say this update itself was "another actionable attack on Plaintiffs and exhibited the malice of Defendants toward the Plaintiffs." The malicious intent that that allege spawned the article succeeded, they say, in interfering with their ability to sell books through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Tower and other retailers. The plaintiffs also say that Warren's parody exposed them to "extreme ridicule in the community where they reside and where their works are viewed and read." I don't see Warren challenging them on that point.

The full complaint is below. I'm awaiting comment from an Esquire spokesman. Update: The spokesman had this statement:

We have not seen the complaint. The blog post spoke for itself. It was satire, an age-old and completely legitimate form of expression. Additionally, the piece was tagged as 'humor,' as are all of our frequent satire posts on Esquire's Politics Blog. That was not lost on our observant readers.

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*Corrected to reflect response from Joseph Farah in the comments below.

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