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Friday, February 18, 2011
Newsmax Takes Sides on Lawsuit Against Lawyer, Hides Its Own Involvement
Topic: Newsmax

A Feb. 15 Newsmax article by David Patten takes a couple stabs at balance in reporting on legal actions against the lawyer for Rifqa Bary, the teen who ran away from home claiming that her Muslim parents planned to kill her for converting to Christianity, but it's clear where Patten's sympathy lies, starting with the headline: "Rifqa Barry [sic] Attorney Stemberger Fights $10 Million Suit for Defending Christian Rights."

Well, no. John Stemberger faces the lawsuit for allegedly defaming the lawyer for Bary's parents, Omar Tarazi, by claiming that he was mosque that had ties to terrorists and that he was being paid by the Council on American-Islamic Relations to represent the parents.But Patten tried to downplay the claim, describing it as stemming "from the last 30 seconds of an appearance [Stemberger] made on Fox & Friends" and playing up Stemberger's claims that the remarks were "fairly harmless" and that Tarazi is "paraphrasing and he’s interpreting, instead of quoting me."

Patten also uncritically describes Stemberger as "a well-respected Orlando attorney," adding, "Although he never sought nor received compensation for the case, its aftermath threatens to have devastating consequences for him, and possibly for his professional livelihood." Patten includes two boldface links to Stemberger's defense fund.

Further, Patten curiously leaves Stemberger's co-defendant in the defamation lawsuit unnamed, identifying the person only as a "blogger." In fact, that "blogger" is former Newsmax columnist Pamela Geller (identified in the lawsuit as Pamela Oshry, the name she went by before a recent divorce), who appears to have written some actionable statements about Tarazi in her work for Newsmax:

  • In a March 1, 2010, column, Geller asserted that Tarazi was a "attorney chosen by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)."
  • On March 11, Geller called Tarazi "her parents’ aggressive and manipulative attorney" and again claimed that he "was chosen for the Barys by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group under suspicion of funding the terrorist group Hamas."

You'd think Patten would have known that. Either he's too dumb to do basic research, or he's deliberately hiding this from his readers, for reasons known only to him.

Patten also notes that Stemberger also faces disciplinary action from the Florida Bar for his actions in the Bary case, but he offers few details beyond an allegation that "Stemberger presented himself as Bary’s attorney when he no longer represented her," a charge that, of course, Patten gave Stemberger the opportunity to deny. The Orlando Sentinel, meanwhile, serves up much more detail:

According to a complaint mailed to the Florida Supreme Court on Monday, that action would have ended Stemberger's representation of Bary.

But Stemberger went on Fox News on four separate occasions and said or implied during the ongoing dependency case in Ohio that he remained Bary's attorney, the complaint said.

Stemberger also accused Omar Tarazi, the attorney for Bary's parents, of being paid by terrorist-associated organizations.

At the time, Tarazi was under a gag order in the Ohio case and couldn't refute the accusations, the Bar's complaint said.

Tarazi, in his complaint to The Florida Bar, accused Stemberger of making false and damaging statements about him.

Tarazi also filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Stemberger in Ohio federal court.

The Bar's complaint said Stemberger posted confidential documents on his law firm's website.

According to the complaint, Stemberger also posted a letter to the editor, which appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, on his website.

The description that appeared in the Sentinel referred to Stemberger as an attorney who represented the teen. But the complaint said Stemberger titled the editorial on his site as "attorney for" Bary.

"After Mr. Tarazi filed a complaint with the bar, [Stemberger] changed the title to state he was the former attorney for the minor child," the document said.

Stemberger violated several Bar rules, the complaint said, including improperly revealing information about a former client. The Florida Bar's complaint asks the state Supreme Court to be "appropriately disciplined."

But since the point of Patten's article was to serve as a free ad for Stemberger's defense fund -- as evidenced by the boldface links to it in his article -- Newsmax really doesn't want you to know the full truth.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:44 AM EST

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