Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Tom Cruise/Open Secret Letters

Letters sent back and forth from a publisher's lawyers and Tom Cruise's lawyers. They are truly a study in civil discourse. We begin with Cruise's lawyer, Robert S. "Assless" Chapman:
We have been informed that the book repeats rumors that our client is homosexual and that the Church of Scientology somehow controls all aspects of his life. Each of the above statements is demonstrably false and defamatory. Mr. Cruise is not homosexual, has never had a homosexual experience, and is completely heterosexual. Moreover, the Church of Scientology does not control or direct his life.
And the theory of damages, all pc'd up:
Mr. Cruise does not disapprove of people who lead a homosexual lifestyle. He believes that such a choice should be up to each individual and that each person should be respected for his or her choice. However, Mr. Cruise's livelihood depends upon his acceptance and approval by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, the majority of whom do not share his views on this political and religious issue.
Finally, the threat:
You are now on notice that the statements you apparently intend to publish are actually false and defamatory. If you nonetheless print those statements, you will be engaging in an act of completely irresponsible journalism as well as causing enormous damage to our client. If the statements are included in the book which you publish, you will immediately be served with a lawsuit.
Debra Weaver for the Defense replies that Chapman's got it all wrong:
'Open Secret' states in no uncertain terms that Mr. Cruise is not homosexual. It also makes no claim that the Church of Scientology controls his life. The chapter devoted to Mr. Cruise is not a regurgitation of the various and widely publicized rumors that he is gay, although those rumors are alluded to in the context of the author's commentary.
Weaver offers a possible source of confusion:
If your concerns over the content of the book are derived from a recent story in the 'National Enquirer,' I can tell you that that story mischaracterizes the book in many respects.
Does this satisfy Chapman? Not really. He fires back with:
In order to complete our investigation of this matter and to confirm your characterization of 'Open Secret.' please send me a copy of the chapter of the book which pertains to Mr. Cruise.
But Debbie Won't Do It*
I must respectfully decline your request to allow you to review any portion of the manuscript for 'Open Secret' prior to publication. It is not William Morrows's policy, nor is there any legal obligation, to allow the subject of a book a right of review over the manuscript. That having been said, I can again assure you that William Morrow is well aware of its legal obligations and we are confident that the treatment of Mr. Cruise is in no way defamatory.
Then Chapman decides to spread wide, goatse style, and shoot off a really nasty threat:
I am in receipt of your letter of September 2, 1998 and I have two comments. First, I have offered to review that portion of the book which relates to Mr. Cruise in order to determine if the book is accurate. You have refused that offer. In your letter you state that there is no 'legal obligation' to allow that review. You are wrong. Since your company is now on notice that publication of the book may defame my client, your refusal to verify what the actual facts are constitutes reckless disregard for the truth. Your company has a legal obligation to determine the truth of a matter before you publish it. Your refusal to investigate the truth violates that legal obligation.
Second, no doubt you recall that when you dealt recently with my partner Charles Shephard concerning the proposed book about Godzilla, you took the same position and refused to disclose the book to him. That decision on your part resulted not only in a lawsuit but an injunction againt the publication of that book.
Since your legal position is incorrect and has resulted in unfortunate consequences in the past, I suggest you consult with your colleagues and provide me with the requested material.
Debra's reply is altogether more civil:
The condescending tone of your letter is completely inappropriate and I will not dignify it with further response. The book has already been published and is available in book stores so the issue of pre-publication review is moot. For the record, however, your letter completely mischaracterizes my position.
While I do not believe that any future correspondance on this matter would be necessary or fruitful, I do request that should you need to correspond again, please limit your comments to the matter before us.
Just a little slice of legal life for ya.

*Also the title of a much-beloved Catholic educational film.

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