In the end, former candidate Jeff Greene had a lot going against him in last week’s Florida Democratic primary for the US Senate: stories that he’d made his millions on shady business deals that had left hundreds of California families homeless, reports that Mike Tyson had been the best man at his wedding and may have done cocaine on Greene’s yacht and, ultimately, the fact that both Presidents Obama and Clinton had endorsed his Democratic rival Kendrick Meek, who ended up beating Greene badly at the polls.
But Greene’s only pointing the guilty finger at one culprit: the media.
Half a billion fingers, actually. Greene recently filed a $500,000 libel lawsuit against the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, alleging that both papers ran stories about him that were false and misleading.
"They tried to engage in character assassination, there’s no question about it," he told Talking Points Memo.
The New York Times reports on the basis of Greene’s case:
At issue are two news articles written by St. Petersburg Times reporters that were printed in both The Times and The Herald, and a Times editorial urging a federal investigation into Mr. Greene’s business activities.
In one article, The Times reported that Mr. Greene was party to a real estate deal that left 300 California families homeless and a partner of his in jail. The other left the impression that the boxer Mike Tyson, who was the best man at Mr. Greene’s wedding, used drugs while on Mr. Greene’s yacht. The paper later ran a front-page correction clarifying that Mr. Tyson said he had not used drugs on the yacht.
Greene maintains that a handful of the state’s top political reporters that make up the Florida’s "media elite" suffer from a bad case of groupthink and need to be taught a lesson. And it’s not just for his sake, but for the sake of other potential politicians who may be afraid to run because of the media’s influence. Which makes this fight, in his view, just as important as his bid for US Senator.
For this next battle, Greene’s enlisted the help of attorney L. Lin Wood, who represented Richard Jewell, the exonerated suspect in 1996’s Olympic bombing in Atlanta.
St. Petersberg Times editor Neil Brown thinks Greene’s claims are baseless, and that the billionaire is just pouting over having lost so much of his own fortune in his failed Senate run. Over at Talking Points Memo, Brown got to the heart of the issue:
"Democracy won’t work if we let lawsuits full of baseless charges from a political candidate inhibit us from providing voters with the independent information that they need and rely on."