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WFAA-TV, Inc. v. McLemore

978 S.W.2d 568 (1998)

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WFAA-TV, Inc. v. McLemore

Texas Supreme Court

978 S.W.2d 568 (1998)

Facts

In 1993, federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) raided a compound in Waco, Texas, occupied by a small religious sect called the Branch Davidians. A local television reporter, John McLemore (plaintiff), was dispatched to cover the raid with a cameraman. McLemore followed the agents onto the compound and reported live while a firefight broke out between the agents and the Davidians. Several agents and Davidians were killed, and 20 agents were wounded. McLemore and the cameraman assisted in transporting some of the wounded agents off of the compound. A few days later, several news stations began reporting that agents believed that members of the media were responsible for tipping off the Davidians of the upcoming raid. WFAA-TV (defendant) repeated the allegation and noted that McLemore was at the scene during the raid. McLemore gave numerous interviews about his role and portrayed himself as a hero for assisting wounded agents. McLemore sued several news agencies, including WFAA-TV, alleging that the statements about a member of the media tipping off the Davidians and McLemore’s presence on the compound constituted defamation. WFAA-TV moved for summary judgment, arguing that McLemore was a public figure and that there was no actual malice in its reporting because it explained the foundation of the facts in its reporting. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. WFAA-TV petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hankinson, J.)

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