Attorney in $1M KSTP Defamation Case: ‘Are Investigative Reporters Trying to Get to the Truth?’

By Andrew Gauthier 

Last November, Minneapolis-St.Paul ABC-affiliate KSTP lost the biggest defamation suit in Minnesota history, stemming from a 2009 report about a mentally ill woman who considered suicide after speaking with a holistic healer.

Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages now has an in-depth story on the $1 million case, featuring interviews with the holistic healer, her attorney, and the jury foreman.

It appears that the defamation case, which the KSTP attorney described as “he-said/she-said,” came down to the station’s unwillingness to thoroughly investigate the woman’s claims against the healer as it raced to promote the story.

“Every time you watch an investigative report nowadays they try to get the same video clip of the person running away from the camera, ducking, not wanting to be interviewed,” the defamation attorney in the case told City Pages. “It all makes for great TV, but are those reporters trying to get to the truth, trying to find out what really happened? I don’t think that’s how you do it.”

While KSTP did review the mentally ill woman’s medical records, they didn’t do enough investigating to appease the jury.

“They did very little to try and verify the claims of that individual, and some of the things they did do, like pulling doctors’ records, did not really substantiate her story,” the jury foreman in the case said. “And then when it started coming out and the holistic healer tried to say, ‘Hold it, that’s not correct, you need to take a look at this,’ they chose not to.”

Perhaps the most damning part of the City Pages story is the healer’s assertion that she asked KSTP to get her former patient to authorize her to discuss their relationship with the station.

“Instead, KSTP began airing promos.”

[City Pages]