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The National Enquirer & Libel Suits

The National Enquirer has a remarkable track record for avoiding libel suits using a combination of First Amendment freedoms, aggressive lawyering, and patience. In recent years, however, the newspaper has been sued successfully by several celebrities over stories that were shown to be false. The National Enquirer's main office is a structure on South East Coast Avenue in Lantana, Florida that resembles a school building. However, the flamboyant newspaper has built its reputation on hyperbole rather than straight, scholarly fact. Generoso Pope, Jr., a former C.I.A. operative, is its founding owner. He purchased the paper, then known as the New York Enquirer, in 1952. He made it famous and successful by stressing the lurid and bizarre details of crime stories and by the use of lots of celebrity gossip. The paper publishes about 3,600 stories a year, has a circulation of over 4.5 million readers and is sold primarily in supermarkets. In 1980 the paper could boast twenty years of circulation without ever going to trial on a libel suit. Meyer Kimmel, of Kaufman, Taylor, Kimmel & Miller, is credited as being the man most responsible for this unblemished record. He was hired by Pope in 1960 when the paper was still headquartered in New York, and when the paper moved to its current location in Florida in 1971, Pope remained in New York. From 1971 to 1976 Pope worked on retainer for the paper. Every story was read to him over the phone for his legal, moral, and ethical opinion, and his opinions were carefully followed. Though scandal and sensation are the paper's bywords, Kimmel could brag,

Everything was disposed of by conference, correspondence--or by convincing and proving that the claimant had no cause. We never had to pay off and that was a policy that was well known. Everyone knew that making a claim against the Enquirer was not going to result in a settlement.

In 1976 after an inquiry by CBS's "Sixty Minut...

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