Defamed Father Demands
Retraction, Apology from PBS
"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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
Kenneth Konz, CPB
Larry Rifkin, CPTV
Station Manager, KQED