The Philadelphia Inquirer just lost a motion for summary judgement to toss former columnist Stu Bykofsky's defamation suit out of court. Jury selection in Byko's case against the Inky and Inga Saffron is scheduled to start Dec. 1st.
— Big Trial (@BigTrialBlog) October 6, 2022
This is one of my favorite stories ever.
The background is that veteran Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stu Bykofsky took a buyout in the summer of 2019, after 47 years writing for the paper. At his 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. Victor Fiorillo at Philly Mag obtained the awesome video of the train wreck and deserves a Pulitzer for his story.
So anyway, Bykosky decided to file a defamation lawsuit against Saffron and the paper, claiming that she impugned his journalistic methods and accused him of digging child prostitutes and all of that. The Inquirer tried to get the lawsuit tossed, saying that she was just giving her personal opinion of the guy’s work. Ultimately that effort was unsuccessful and now this thing is going to court.
Coggin and I would love to sit on the jury for this case. We are unbiased! We don’t care who wins. Also, we’re journalism veterans and we feel like we’d be able to apply some credibility here. We are happy to serve so just get in contact with us and we’ll go from there.
(The 2011 column in question is still archived online. I read it a few times. It comes off as raw and maybe pointless, but not exactly offensive. He’s basically talking about a trip to see a friend in Thailand, and he describes the sex worker scene there, but I didn’t get the vibe that he “had a taste” for child prostitutes)
edit – check this out:
Finally, a Pulitzer nod. Thanks @Kevin_Kinkead and @CrossingBroad. You might have missed the Inky's lawsuit against Byko as well as some of the filings, which contain VERY interesting things. I can't report on them. https://t.co/bxEL8yFNYQ
— Victor Fiorillo (@phillyvictor) October 6, 2022
Here’s more on the counter suit filed by the Inquirer, from Big Trial:
On June 29th in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Inquirer filed a lawsuit against Bykofsky alleging that in defending his reputation, he had violated a non-disparagement clause that he signed three years ago when he took a buyout.
In the lawsuit, which the head of Bykofsky’s union says is unprecedented, the Inquirer is seeking to recoup from Bykofsky “gross pay in the amount of $58,738.56,” plus “payment of his COBRA medical expenses for a period of eight months.”
“Suing a former 40 year employee over his exercising his First Amendment right by defending himself is pretty ironic don’t you think?” said Bill Ross, the executive director of the News Guild of Greater Philadelphia.
Ross, who termed the newspaper’s lawsuit “a pretty desperate measure,” said that “in all the buyouts the Inquirer has had over the past 20 years, they have never sued a former Guild member for violating the terms of the buyout.”