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Edwards v. National Audubon Society, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
556 F.2d 113 (1977)
During intense public controversy over the use of the insecticide DDT, Robert Arbib, Jr., a writer for the National Audubon Society, Inc. (Audubon) (defendant) published a foreword in an Audubon publication. Arbib’s foreword asserted that scientists who cited the Audubon’s bird-count data to support the use of DDT were liars paid off by the pesticide industry. New York Times (Times) nature reporter John Devlin heard about the accusations and believed they were newsworthy, so he reached out to Arbib to find out whom Audubon considered a paid liar. Arbib had not intended to call any specific scientist a paid liar but agreed to compile a list of scientists he believed met the description. Arbib did not know any scientist he could legitimately label a paid liar, so he approached a biologist at the Audubon who was deeply involved in the DDT controversy. The biologist provided a list of five scientists to Arbib and emphasized that he was not calling any of them paid liars; they were simply the scientists who most egregiously misused the bird-count data. Arbib provided the names to Devlin. At trial, Arbib testified that he told Devlin the listed scientists were not considered paid liars. Devlin testified that Arbib represented to him that the five names on the list were the paid liars referred to in the foreword. The list included Dr. J. Gordon Edwards (plaintiff). Devlin reached out to the five scientists and spoke to three. They denied the charges and called the claims unfounded and emotional. After working in good faith to investigate and report both sides of the story accurately, Devlin wrote and published an article about the controversy. The scientists sued Audubon and the Times in federal court. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the scientists. The Times appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kaufman, C.J.)
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