United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
COREY D. CLARK, Plaintiff,
E! ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION, LLC, Defendant.
FRENSLEY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. No. 128). Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition (Doc. No. 151), and Defendant has replied. (Doc.
No. 158). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's
motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Corey Clark, a former contestant on American Idol,
filed this diversity action for libel and false light
invasion of privacy against Defendant E! Entertainment
Television, LLC, and Fox Broadcasting Company based on
E!'s January 27, 2012 airing of a program titled
“E! True Hollywood Story: Paula Abdul” (the
Program). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges in his
false light claim that the Program conveys the message that
“Clark did not have any meaningful relationship with
Abdul and that Clark was dishonest when he disclosed the
nature of the relationship on ABC News.” (Doc. No. 17
at ¶ 314). Both Defendant and Fox filed motions to
dismiss, and on October 10, 2014, the Court granted Fox's
motion in full and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss
Clark's defamation claims. (Doc. No. 101). Thus, only a
claim of false light invasion of privacy against E!
competed on Season Two of American Idol, which aired
in 2003. (Deposition I of Corey Clark (“Clark
Dep. I”) at 54:23-55:15). Paula Abdul appeared on the
show as one of the three judges. (Doc. No. 153 at 4). During
the 2003 season, Plaintiff was disqualified following the
publication of an article on TheSmokingGun.com concerning his
arrest in Topeka, Kansas on October 12, 2002. (Doc. No. 17 at
36). Sometime after Plaintiff's ouster from the contest,
he publicly proclaimed that Ms. Abdul had been his mentor on
the show, that the two had become romantically involved, and
that he had an affair with Ms. Abdul while still a contestant
on American Idol. (Doc. No. 100 at 7).
2005, while Plaintiff was working on an album release and a
book regarding his experience on American Idol,
(Doc. No. 153 at 5), the Globe and the New York
Post reported on Clark's allegation that he had an
affair with Ms. Abdul in 2003 while a participant on
American Idol. (Clark Dep. I at 138:18 - 139:7).
Many other publications and news outlets reported on
Plaintiff's allegations, and ABC's Primetime
devoted an episode to American Idol and
Plaintiff's allegations of his affair. (Doc. No. 153 at
6). Plaintiff's allegations were also the subject of a
sketch on NBC's Saturday Night Live in which Ms.
Abdul appeared. SNL made fun of Plaintiff as being an
opportunist, and Plaintiff testified that he thought the
sketch was funny, was not offensive, and indicated that he
had “arrived.” (Id.). Clark agrees that
in 2005, the notion of him being an opportunist who was
looking for his fifteen minutes of fame was widely reported
in the media. (Doc. No. 153 at 6).
Abdul's E! True Hollywood Story
television series E! True Hollywood Story (“E!
THS”) is a documentary series that focuses on
celebrities, movies, television programs, and public figures.
(Doc. No. 153 at 2). In 2005, E! THS updated the Program that
focused on Ms. Abdul's life and career to include the
public controversy created by Plaintiff's allegations;
that episode was broadcast again, with the last airing on or
about January 27, 2012. (Doc. No. 100 at 8). As summarized
previously by the Court in its October 10, 2014 order, the
Program described Plaintiff's participation on
American Idol, his ascension to becoming a finalist,
and his disqualification after TheSmokingGun.com report.
(Id. at 8-9). The program included an interview with
an American Idol producer who explained that
Plaintiff was disqualified from the show because he did not
disclose on a background questionnaire that he had been
arrested. (Id. at 9). The Program stated that
Plaintiff was arrested, was later cleared of the charges, and
that Plaintiff did not disclose the arrest on the
questionnaire because he was cleared of the charges.
Program also recounted Plaintiff's later claims that he
had an affair with Ms. Abdul. (Id.). A voiceover
states that Ms. Abdul initially made no public statement, but
later claimed Plaintiff's allegations were lies.
(Id.). The Program went on to describe media and fan
reactions to the story, and reports that an investigation by
independent counsel hired by Fox found that Plaintiff's
claims regarding the alleged affair were unsubstantiated.
(Id.). The Program featured journalist John Quinones
of ABC's Primetime speaking at length on camera
about the allegations Clark made on Primetime and
the fact that ABC stood by its report of Clark's
allegations. (Doc. No. 153 at 9). The Program ends the
segment discussing Plaintiff's allegations of an affair
with a statement by USA Today's Elysa Gardner stating,
“At the end of the day maybe only the two of them know
what really happened.” (Id. at 11).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In evaluating a motion for summary
judgment, the court views the facts in the light most
favorable for the nonmoving party, and draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Bible
Believers v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 805 F.3d 228, 242 (6th
Cir. 2015); Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture,
Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003). Claims that a
fact is, or is not, in genuine dispute must be supported by
the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). However, a “mere
‘scintilla of evidence' within the record that
militates against the overwhelming weight of contradictory
corroboration does not create a genuine issue of fact.”
Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). If a rational trier of
fact could not find for the nonmoving party, summary judgment
should be granted. Slusher v. Shelbyville Hosp.
Corp., 805 F.3d 211, 215 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing
Miller v. Sanilac Cty., 606 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir.
Lewis v. NewsChannel 5 Network, L.P., 238 S.W.3d
270, 283 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007), the Tennessee Court of
Appeals explained that “summary judgments are
particularly well-suited for false light and libel
claims” because whether the plaintiff is a public
figure, and whether he or she has come forward with clear and
convincing evidence that the defendant was acting with actual
malice are questions of law. Thus, where the actual malice
standard applies, the “burden is upon plaintiff to show
with ‘convincing clarity' the facts which make up
the ‘actual malice.'” Id. (quoting
Trigg v. Lakeway Publishers, Inc., 720 S.W.2d 69, 75
(Tenn. Ct. App. 1986)).