A federal judge yesterday dismissed Eric Clopper's libel suit against the Harvard Crimson over the way it covered the controversy surrounding his one-day performance at Sanders Theatre over the evils of circumcision.
US District Court Judge Richard Stearns ruling came about three weeks after he dismissed Clopper's suit against Harvard for firing him after the 2018 performance.
In his suit against the Crimson, Clopper alleged the paper libeled him three ways, by calling him antisemitic, by saying he worked on the performance when he should have been doing his job as a Harvard IT worker and that he "engaged in a 'nude, anti-Semitic rant' " during his performance.
Stearns ruled none of the allegations were "actionable."
He said that Clopper himself acknowledged in his lawsuit that he worked on setting up the performance during his scheduled Harvard work time and that he was, in fact, nude on stage for at least part of the performance. The judge noted that while the Crimson noted his work-time performance work, it not question its propriety.
Although Clopper may not have actually "ranted" while nude - he didn't speak, just danced with a sex doll he called Britney while a Britney Spears song played in the background - Stearns said, maybe, but libel law allows such possible mistakes if the overall context of the article in question is correct.
[H]ere, the context of the referenced headline indisputably dispels any defamatory interpretation. The first line of the article, after all, explicitly clarifies that "Harvard is 'reviewing' reports that University employee Eric Clopper made anti-Semitic comments and stripped to the nude during a public performance he gave in Sanders Theatre." ... The article also includes several quotations from plaintiff describing his nude performance as the conclusion or "about the last 20 seconds" of his play.
As for Clopper being antisemitic - which he said was impossible, being Jewish himself, so therefore the Crimson libeled him - Stearns wrote that's a matter of opinion and opinion is protected by the First Amendment.
Stearns added that Clopper's claim the Crimson violated his civil rights also fails because he did not show the Crimson used " threats, intimidation, or coercion" to deprive him of any rights, as required under Massachusetts civil-rights law.