A federal judge on Tuesday denied Glenn Beck's request to dismiss a libel lawsuit that accuses the conservative talking head of defaming a Saudi man Beck falsely accused of funding the Boston Marathon bombing last year.
As Josh Gerstein explains, Beck sought to have the lawsuit tossed out on the grounds that Abdulrahman Alharbi, the man who brought the suit, was a public figure because of his presence near the finish line of the marathon, where two bombs exploded, killing three people. As a public figure, Alharbi would have had to clear a difficult hurdle in order for the lawsuit to proceed, proving that Beck intentionally lied or acted with malice in making the accusations.
But in ruling that the lawsuit could move forward, U.S. District Judge Patti Saris rejected the argument that the mere act of attending the event made Alharbi a public figure.
"Choosing to attend a sporting event as one of thousands of spectators is not the kind of conduct that a reasonable person would expect to result in publicity," she wrote. "Quite to the contrary, a spectator at an event like the Boston Marathon would reasonably expect to disappear into the throngs of others, never attracting notice by the press. Because he did not 'assume the risk of publicity,' Alharbi does not meet the definition of an involuntary public figure."
Therefore, Sari concluded, Alharbi is a private figure who does not need to prove "actual malice" on Beck's part.
The judge noted that Beck "made numerous false statements" concerning Alharbi even after investigators cleared him of involvement in the bombing.