.

.

Home   |   Email Glenn

Columns

Blog

Bio

Radio/TV

Campaigns

His Side

E-Newsletter

Contact

 

Defamed Father Demands Retraction, Apology from PBS


Dr. Scott Loeliger, a Northern California physician who without any basis was portrayed as a batterer and abuser on PBS's anti-father documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories, has written a demand letter to PBS in which he seeks a retraction and an apology. The letter states:

"I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from rebroadcasting all programs and advertisements relating to “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.”  I also demand a retraction from PBS, CPTV and KQED and that it be aired publicly in all markets that showed this documentary.  PBS, et al., must take full responsibility for the portrayal of me as a batterer and abuser, while allowing the actual child abuser, Ms. Alilire [Sadia Loeliger] , to speak on this subject.

Scott's full letter appears below. Lea Sloan, PBS's Vice President of Communications, replied on November 11, stating that Loeliger's demand letter "is currently being reviewed by our legal department."

 

November 7, 2005

Pat Mitchell, President & CEO
Public Broadcasting Service
1320 Braddock Pl.    Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

 Dear Ms. Mitchell:

I am writing to demand a correction and retraction of the numerous false and defamatory statements about me contained in your program entitled “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.”  By sending this letter, I do not concede that any retraction statues apply to this matter.

On October 20, 2005 numerous PBS stations around the country began airing “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.”  Despite my earlier communication with Dominique Lasseur of Tatge-Lasseur, Connecticut Public Television, and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, I discovered to my horror that the program featured not only my daughter, Fatima B. Loeliger but also her mother, Sadia Alilire, who had been filmed at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference.

The overwhelming message of the broadcast became immediately apparent.  Without any evidence or balanced discussion of either general or specific cases, the program stated and implied that any man identified or connected to the matter was guilty of heinous and other illegal conduct.  Specifically, the show trades on this guilt by association technique through the threshold references to: battered mothers; molestation; abusers improperly winning joint/sole custody; male rage and ruthlessness juxtaposed to female fear; and an incredible assumption that in 75% of the cases where fathers seek custody, they are batterers and abusers.

In this fabricated context, the broadcast cleverly segues to my “story,” plainly insinuating that my case is illustrative of the parade of horribles identified at the outset of the program.  Although my daughter’s identity was thinly disguised by using the name “Amina” the message she and her mother were giving was not.  My daughter portrays me falsely as a “white man” who took her away from a loving and protective mother.  She stated and implied that I misled people, although she referenced events she could never have witnessed.  She also incorrectly implied that I manipulated the court at a hearing through the use of tears, again without personal knowledge on her part of any kind.  The broadcast also aired statements from my daughter insinuating abuse by me, and that I falsified claims of abuse to cause her mother to lose custody.  She also said I lied to her during the time that she had no contact with her mother and that I portrayed her mother as a drug abuser.  These insinuations are false as well.

What is more egregious, on a show that purports to be about “Children’s Stories,” the adults and the heavily biased experts take center stage.  Even before Fatima is shown, her mother is filmed speaking to a group consisting only of women.  All of these women have concerned and sympathetic faces as Ms. Alilire speaks: “We are all in the same boat.”  I am not sure which boat she is referring to, since she has never been battered or abused by me, but the message of the broadcast is clear given the context: her former husband  is a controlling abusive male that used the courts to take away her child without basis.

This broadcast seriously defamed me by ignoring the most salient fact underlying this entire matter - that Ms. Alilire lost custody of Fatima because of her abusive behavior not only towards Fatima but two other children in the home.  Fatima was removed based on facts and evidence, not my allegations, supported by the children’s statements and those of the baby-sitter hired by Ms. Alilire to care for them.

The not-so-subtle message from the women portrayed in this production - supported by PBS, CPB, Mary Kay Charitable Foundation and many domestic violence/women’s groups - is that children’s stories of abuse are almost inevitably true.  Thus, the program lends it imprimatur to Fatima’s earlier statements about me and my supposed misconduct.  That the program curiously fails to identify me directly by name does not alter the reality that both as a matter of fact and law the program was of and concerning me.

As you must know, it is unlawful to make false and disparaging statements about a person.  Cal. Civ. Code§ 45; Southern Air Transport, Inc. v. ABC, 670 F. Supp. 38, 41 (D.D.C. 1987); aff’d, 877 F.2d 1010 (D.C.Cir. 1989).  Furthermore, a broadcaster is liable in civil damages not only for what is said about another, but for what is insinuated and implied as well.  Afro-American Publishing Co. V. Jaffe, 366 F2d 649 (D.C. Cir. 1966).  In addition, even if a communication is couched in terms of personal opinion, it nevertheless is actionable if it implies false facts or if it is understood by the viewers to be factual in nature.  Milkovich v. Lorain Journal, 497 U.S. 1, 13 (1990); Weller v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc., 232 Cal. App. 3d 991, 1000-01 (1991).

Your broadcast knowingly aired false statements.  As you are aware the law has established that a party who republishes the defamatory statements of someone else is also responsible.  Neary v. Regents of Univ. Of California, 185 Cal. App. 3d 1136, 1147 (1986); Khawar v. Globe Intl. Inc., 79 Cal. 4th 254, 274 (1998) (confirming that any “neutral reportage” privilege does not apply to private figures).  Even if you based your statements upon remarks made by others, you are also responsible for republishing these false statements.

Accordingly, I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from rebroadcasting all programs and advertisements relating to “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.”  I also demand a retraction from PBS, CPTV and KQED and that it be aired publicly in all markets that showed this documentary.  PBS, et al., must take full responsibility for the portrayal of me as a batterer and abuser, while allowing the actual child abuser, Ms. Alilire, to speak on this subject.

At bottom, your program is irreparably damaging and exploitive not only my daughter but others like her.  It allows the adults portrayed to use their children to push their own agenda.  Shame on you.


Sincerely,
Scott Loeliger

cc:
Kenneth Konz, CPB
Larry Rifkin, CPTV
Station Manager, KQED

 

 

Sign up for Fathers & Families' free weekly enewsletter

Home  |  Legal  |  Contact     •     email: glenn@glennsacks.com


Copyright © 2001 - 2010.  Fathers and Families.
All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Home  |  Legal  |  Contact     •     email: glenn@glennsacks.com



Copyright © 2001 - 2008.  Sacks Media Group, LLC
All Rights Reserved.