This is one of my favorite stories of all time. A total train wreck.
You might recall that veteran Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stu Bykofsky took a buyout last summer, after 47 years writing for the paper.
At the farewell gathering, architecture critic Inga Saffron took a few snipes before referencing a 2011 column Bykofsky wrote about a trip to Asia, bringing up, quote, “his taste for child prostitutes in Thailand.” That resulted in an awkward exchange in which Bykofsky called Saffron’s comments a “total fucking lie” and “a sack of shit lie,” among other things.
Bykofsky, in March, then filed a defamation lawsuit against Saffron and the paper, alleging that she impugned his journalistic methods and accused him of felonious conduct, among other things.
The Inquirer looked to have that lawsuit tossed, saying that she was just giving her opinion of the guy’s work. But this week a Philadelphia judge ruled that the lawsuit can continue.
“…in a 21-page opinion issued earlier this month, (Common Pleas Court Judge James Crumlish III) wrote that The Inquirer’s argument was not sufficient to dismiss the suit at this early stage, in part because the videotaped speech — which Crumlish said Saffron delivered with a “humorless demeanor” — was ultimately disseminated well beyond the newsroom.
“Certainly, a fair interpretation for an ordinary listener (not necessarily the sophisticated, urban broad sheet journalistic audience purportedly occupying the newsroom) is that Saffron was referring to Bykofsky’s character and demeaning him as immoral (perhaps an opinion), a conclusion based upon the fact that he engaged in child prostitution,” Crumlish wrote.”
This is incredible. Just totally outrageous. I can’t believe the lawsuit made it this far. I thought it was going to be tossed immediately.
It’s also another unnecessary headache for Inky brass. The region’s premier media outlet has put together a laundry list of absolutely ridiculous events that have taken place in the last year alone. First, we had a retired columnist file suit against a current columnist for defamation. Then, some poor soul printed a headline reading “Buildings Matter, Too,” which led to an internal revolt and the top editor’s resignation. After that, employees of color created a list of demands to bring the newspaper up to speed in the diversity and transparency departments. On top of it all, the paper continues to hemorrhage talent via buyouts and some younger folks just deciding to peace out.
Here’s the video clip again, courtesy Victor Fiorillo at Philly Mag:
“This is a total fucking lie!” – Stu Bykofsky