It is not clear whether this will be more significant as a criminal or a defamation claim. CNN personality Richard Quest was arrested on April 18th. Various news organizations reported that he was found with a small bag of methamphetamine. Bad, but not particularly interesting. However, the New York Post has alleged that Quest was also caught with a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot. A bit of a difference and one that could lead to some interesting litigation if found to be untrue or misleading.
The New York Post reported the story here. The basic facts have appeared elsewhere. Quest, 46, was arrested at around 3:40 a.m. with another man inside the park near 64th Street.
One of two things seem possible here. Either the other news organizations did not consider these facts to be newsworthy (or could not confirm them) or New York Post is way out on a legal limb in reporting this first (some blogs had reported these facts earlier). If untrue, it would be ripe for a defamation action on the allegation of sexual misconduct, a per se category under common law.
If true, most media contracts contains a provision that allows termination for notorious or criminal conduct — once called a “morality clause.” This would do it. Of course, if untrue, Quest will join Richard Gere as one of the greatest sexual urban legends of all time.
The Post is basing its reporting on unidentified police sources. It would be surprising for a major newspaper to go too far in front of the news pack without two or three such sources. Under New York Times v. Sullivan, Quest would have to show actual malice — including either knowledge of the falsity or more likely reckless disregard. He is a public figure for the purposes of defamation. Given the impact of the story, one would assume that the New York Post had at least two sources and at least ten times the number of lawyers on this story.