Caldwell and Scott

I haven't written much on the little brouhaha between Genie Scott of the NCSE and Larry Caldwell, a creationist parent in California who, it seems, threatens to sue everyone. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he threatens to sue me for saying he threatens to sue people a lot. Genie had written an article for California Wild, a publication of the California Academy of Sciences, about a creationist flareup in Roseville, California that contained a few minor mistakes about Caldwell, who was suing the school board in Roseville. Caldwell then filed suit against Genie and the NCSE and threatened suits against the California Academy of Sciences and even threatened to sue people who had quoted from Genie's article. For a legal analysis of the complaint, see Sandefur's post here.

Caldwell, the Discovery Institute and their fellow travelers in the media, including the Worldnutdaily, blew it out of all proportion, turning a few minor inaccuracies into an injustice of historical proportions. Genie's statements, they claimed, were "defamatory" and "expose him to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy" as part of a "strategy of using misinformation." The truth is that there were a few minor errors and Genie subsequently corrected them in a letter to California Wild (see the corrected article here). The whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, but the ID crowd tried mightily to turn it into a major scandal (perhaps that's what their newly hired PR firm is teaching them).

Fast forward to the last couple weeks, when Caldwell left a couple of comments on the Panda's Thumb in response to this post. And there is an interesting tension between the two comments that I'd like to point out. The point of the post was that California Wild had briefly posted the corrected version of the article on their website, after the intiial version was pulled in response to his first lawsuit threat. In the first comment, he said:

As for NCSE's attempt to minimize the admitted factual misstatements in Scott's article, the fact that her own publisher considers the article too flawed to post --even in its "corrected" form-- speaks volumes.

Here Caldwell is claiming that the CAS had not reposted the article because it was "too flawed" to post. But in his second comment, he posts an email from the attorney representing the CAS that points to a far more likely explanation:

"From: "Drew Dilworth" ADilworth@cwclaw.com>
To: lcaldwell@qsea.org>
Cc: "Mark Tuft" MTuft@cwclaw.com>

Dear Mr. Caldwell:

In response to your inquiry, CAS has confirmed to us that there is no
revised version of the Scott article posted on its website, and no
violation of the settlement agreement has occurred."

In fact, the CAS had posted the corrected version on its website briefly, but took it down again. This is almost certainly not because they found the article "too flawed" to post, as Caldwell initially claimed, but because Caldwell would almost certainly sue them if they had posted even the corrected version. As the email from the attorney clearly implies, the moment that Caldwell heard that they had posted the corrected version, he fired off an email threatening to sue them for a violation of the settlement agreement.

The whole thing smacks of a SLAPP lawsuit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. More importantly, it smacks of a rather desperate attempt to turn a few minor inaccuracies into a major public scandal. As Sandefur pointed out, "Now, when you're accusing someone of misrepresenting you, it rather takes the wind out of your sails to misrepresent that person in your own complaint! Caldwell calls Scott a 'liar' in this article; but it's Caldwell who is either sloppy, a liar, or both."

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