Defamation: Birkhead To Sue Over Crosby’s Book on Anna Nicole Smith

Photographer Larry Birkhead has stated that he will sue Rita Crosby over her new book alleging that he was the homosexual lover of Howard K. Stern, Smith’s attorney and companion. Thee book, “Blond Ambition: The Untold Story Behind Anna Nicole Smith’s Death,” will now be the basis for a defamation lawsuit and Birkhead has warned that “If I were Rita Cosby, I’d be very concerned.” He’s right. Under the common law, this type of allegation was viewed as a per se category of defamation. Per se categories included allegations of criminal conduct (which no longer apply after the Lawrence decision decriminalizing homosexuality) and sexual misconduct (which would still apply). Truth remains a defense, however. Crosby better have the most compelling evidence to put forward or she, and her publisher, could be in for a world of hurt. They may be relying on the fact that Birkhead is a public figure, who under New York Times v. Sullivan is subject to a higher standard of proof for defamation — actual knowledge of the falsity or reckless disregard of the truth. However, this is the type of allegation that under the common law was treated as a particularly severe form of defamation.

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