Kimo Fights Back

Sunday, September 06, 2009

 Kimo Fights Back

In July, I quoted a report that Kimo Leopoldo was considering legal action against the internet troll that started the frenzy of false reports about Kimo’s death.  It appears that a lawsuit is on the horizon, but against a far more well-known opponent:

Although many blogs ran with the erroneous story of Kimo’s untimely demise, TMZ was the first to report that the death had been “confirmed.”  This threw fuel on the fire as TMZ’s confirmation was republished by countless other sources.

TMZ ultimately took down the story, but the website’s prior articles on Kimo still, to this day, show a link with the headline “UFC Legend Kimo Leopoldo Dies.”  Kimo’s attorney, Stephen Doniger, understandably finds TMZ’s actions unacceptable.  Doniger and his client have thus been making the media rounds with Kimo submitting an “open letter’  to MMA blogs and both attorney and client appearing on Fox Fight Game.

Doniger explained to me that he had contacted TMZ to try to get a retraction and to see if a resolution could be reached without litigation.  However, according to Doniger, TMZ has not only refused to post a retraction, it has not even bothered to reply to the correspondence.  Doniger says TMZ is running out of time, and a California state court lawsuit is being prepared which accuses TMZ of defamation and other related causes of action.  Doniger believes that TMZ’s report caused Kimo harm because, among other things, the report said that Kimo had died of a heart attack.   Kimo is trying to clean up his image and such a report hearkened back to earlier reports of a drug-related arrest and may make MMA promoters hesitant to give him a fight for fear of a possible heart condition.

I’ll leave it to Doniger and the California courts to sort out whether a false report of someone’s death can amount to defamation, but it’s absolutely clear that TMZ engaged in irresponsible journalism, which troubles me a great deal. (Unless you’ve been a MMALB reader since the beginning you might not know that I went to journalism school so I take this somewhat personally.)Saying that someone’s death has been “confirmed” has a very specific connotation.  While Beau Taylor should never have originally posted the false comments, the situation would not have gotten so out of hand so quickly if TMZ had not jumped into the fray without getting its facts straight.

While any media outlet can make an honest mistake (see Jewel, Richard) TMZ seems to have something against Kimo.  In February, it ran a story with the headline: “UFC Legend Has Finally Meth His Match.”  The story related to an incident where Kimo was arrested near an automobile containing methamphetamine, but Kimo was never charged with possession of that drug.  In TMZ’s defense, the police report was somewhat confusing and TMZ was not the only outlet to get the story wrong.  Unlike TMZ, however, posted a correction/retraction and later ran a detailed article allowing Kimo to provide his side of the story. TMZ did neither.

Score one for the MMA media.

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