Model sues over "skank" comment

She wants to take a bully blogger to court. But does she have a case?

Published January 8, 2009 11:30AM (EST)

Former Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen is suing Google in an attempt to reveal the identity of an anonymous douchebag(ette) who is using the Internet giant's blogging platform to publicly shame her. The blog Skanks in NYC displays MySpace-style photos of the 36-year-old playfully cavorting around, alongside commentary calling her a "Horsey Face," "ho," "skank bitch," "#1 skanky superstar," "old hag," and "psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank."

In revealing the identity of this undoubtedly very healthy and balanced individual, Cohen hopes to pursue a defamation lawsuit. She argues that the blog's portrayal of her as a "promiscuous woman who is filthy, disgusting, foul and a whore" has hurt  her "reputation and desirability for endorsing products."

Despite feeling for Cohen, I was highly skeptical of whether she really has a case. So, I called up Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation, for an expert opinion. In order to successfully sue the blogger, Cohen would have to convince the court that the statements are defamatory -- "a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to a person's reputation" -- and not opinion, says Opsahl.

Oh, to see that courtroom debate. ("I submit that it is true that the plaintiff is a skank bitch ho. Exhibit A: Trampy MySpace photos. Annnd I rest my case.") Opsahl says, "There's been one California case that dealt with the contention that someone was a 'skank.' They found that, in context, it was an opinion." As for calling her a ho? "That would be defamation if it said someone was engaged in prostitution, prostitution being a crime," he says. "In context the question would be whether that was the blogger making a factual assertion or a hyperbole, a way of expressing the blogger's apparently severe distaste for this model."

In the meantime, the highly-publicized case is driving traffic to the site and, far as I can tell, earning not one ounce of blogger sympathy for the former Versace model. A blogger at College on the Record sneers, "Waa, waa, waa. Yeah, it sucks being called old, but one hardly disproves assertions of desperation by desperately trying to claw down the one blogger in the world that even knew much of anything about Cohen before today." Another writer at Associated Content suggests that "Cohen ought to be thicker skinned about namecalling [sic] reminscent [sic] of grade school." A post at Maximum PC is headlined, "Thin-Skinned Model Sues Google."

Futile as it may be, I fail to see how Cohen's legal case is the most provoking thing about this story. Maybe we should reserve our disapproval for the obsessive sociopath behind the site.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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