CALGARY — Former television war correspondent Arthur Kent choked back tears Wednesday after winning an eight-year-old lawsuit against one of Canada’s largest media companies over a column that called him “Dud Scud.”
A judge ruled that Postmedia and its former columnist Don Martin defamed Kent while he was running for a seat in the Alberta legislature in 2008.
“I’m feeling a measure of vindication from the ruling,” Kent said outside court. “Truth still matters in journalism — and isn’t that good news. Truth, accuracy and balance matter on the Internet and … no genuine journalist will be anything but reassured and encouraged by this court decision.”
Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf ruled that the article “when read as a whole would cause right-thinking members of society to think less of Mr. Kent.”
She said the damage to Kent’s reputation was “exacerbated by the exaggerations and sarcastic tone in the article, by aspects of Mr. Martin’s conduct and by the unfairness to Mr. Kent from Mr. Martin’s failure to provide him with an opportunity to respond prior to publication of the article.”
“While the article did not accuse Mr. Kent of any illegal or immoral acts, it characterized him as an egotistical, politically naive, arrogant candidate whose campaign was in disarray,” she wrote.
She awarded Kent a total of $200,000 in damages from the defendants — $150,000 from Martin and Postmedia for the article and an additional $50,000 from Postmedia for continuing to publish the article online.
Martin referred calls to CTV, where he is now a host. CTV also declined to comment. Postmedia’s Phyllise Gelfand would only say the company is “reviewing the decision.”
Kent, who got the nickname “Scud Stud” while reporting for NBC during the Persian Gulf war, was a star candidate for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives during the 2008 campaign, but was on record as disagreeing with some party policies.
Martin’s column, which used unnamed sources, painted Kent as an out-of-control, egomaniac who had alienated party staff.
“Alberta Conservatives have bestowed problem candidate Arthur Kent with a less flattering designation as he noisily blusters his way through their reeling election campaign — the Dud Scud,” Martin wrote.
The Tories went on to win a majority in the election, but Kent lost his race.
The trial heard from Martin’s sources.
Lawyer Kristine Robidoux acknowledged that she sent Martin emails from Tory insiders complaining about Kent, but said she regretted doing that after seeing the article.
Party insider Alan Hallman testified he had no problem feeding Martin information, because he thought Kent had embarrassed the party.
The two central figures also testified.
Kent called the article a bomb that cratered his campaign and has since prevented him from pursuing other political opportunities.
Martin testified that, while the article may have run on news pages, it was clearly an opinion piece based on extensive research.
But under cross-examination, he acknowledged that the line about Progressive Conservatives calling Kent the “Dud Scud” had come from only one source, whose name he couldn’t remember.
“I’d write it differently today,” Martin said.
Martin testified that he left a voice message seeking Kent’s response before the article was published, but the final version had no comment from him.
Postmedia later refused to publish a rebuttal that Kent submitted.