Clint Gets Fistful of Dollars in "Enquirer" Lawsuit
by Bridget Byrne
Mess with Dirty Harry, and you'll get hurt--just ask the National Enquirer. The supermarket tabloid tried to dish the dirt on Clint Eastwood. He sued for invasion of privacy, and now the tab owes Eastwood a fistful of dollars.
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the paper owes the Absolute Power star $150,000 in damages for publishing a fake interview and upheld a 1995 jury decision that awarded Eastwood $650,000 in attorney's fees.
Eastwood sued the tabloid in 1993 for a cover story headlined "Dirty Harry Lifts the Lid on His Private Life." Eastwood said quotes in the article attributed to him were fabricated. He asked for $15 million, claiming his reputation had been damaged by the notion that he had agreed to an interview with the scandal sheet.
In making their ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court judges chided the Enquirer editors, saying they should have been suspicious of freelance writer Cameron Docherty's claim that he had personally spoken with Eastwood in 1993 about his relationship with actress Frances Fisher and their daughter, Francesca--especially since Docherty had told them that his tape of his supposed cozy chat with the notoriously closed-mouth and litigious star had been erased. (And the dog ate his homework.)
Eastwood's lawyer, Raymond C. Fisher, claimed some of the quotes appearing in the article were pieced together from snippets of old interviews, but most were made up entirely. The judges agreed. "The totality of their choices showed that the editors intended to convey the impression--known by them to be false--that Eastwood willfully submitted to an interview" said Judge Alex Kozinski.
Enquirer lawyers had claimed that Eastwood--who recently wrapped filming on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil--had a personal vendetta against the Enquirer for probing the private life the star feels is his own business, but the judges also noted that Docherty's story contradicted reports published earlier by the tabloid. Enquirer lawyers declined comment.
Eastwood has been feeling lucky in litigation lately. Since settling out of court with ex-paramour Sondra Locke, he's two for two in recent legal actions. In addition to Monday's victory, Clint won the right last week to build his own golf course, in spite of protests from the Sierra Club.