On May 20 Dr. Spencer Price lost a close state Senate GOP primary to attorney John F. Kennedy for the seat being vacated by Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon. Price, however, won a great victory that should be celebrated by everyone disgusted with dirty, false and slanderous attacks that all too often occur in political races from the local to the federal level.
A Monroe County judge recently ruled that when Price was a candidate against Staton two years ago in a GOP primary, the Thomaston doctor was libeled by a political activist reportedly associated with one of Staton’s aides. (Price almost beat Staton that year.) Lawsuit documents reveal the slanderer was one Brian Zorotovich. He sent an email to Monroe County Republicans stating that Price did not pay income taxes from 2002-2009— something the Iraq war veteran always vehemently maintained was untrue.
“This case was never about the money, but rather about the truth,” Price says.” Mr. Zorotovich refused to tell the truth and he will now pay the price for his actions.” Indeed he will. Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson issued a $141,448 judgment against Zorotovich.
The doctor plans to donate the money to local charities.
The Price-Zorotovich case is a timely reminder to everyone engaging in hardball politics ranging from mainstream journalists to wild-eyed political activists and mean-spirited bloggers. Erroneous statements or mistakes in reporting are made in the heat of battle by everyone from journalists to candidates and their supporters. But apologies, retractions or clarifications can and must be made in a timely manner. That is a necessary legal protection for those making the incorrect statements— and of course it is also the ethical and moral thing to do.
But here’s the bottom line: Although anyone running for public office and, for that matter, any individual thrust into the public view is legally deemed a “public figure,” they can still sue for libel and hopefully be successful if malice on the part of the attacker can proved (a high bar to jump) and if the statements being made are provably false and damaging to one’s reputation and ability to conduct one’s business affairs.
Thank you, Spencer Price, on behalf of all who have been slandered and libeled in the “political arena” but who didn’t have the monetary resources to fight back in court and ultimately win.