Judge issues ruling on John Sharpe defamation case

John Sharpe — the subject of prior investigations of this blog — recently sued the newspaper (The Virginia Pilot) and a columnist by the name of David Mastio for defamation.

The ruling came on April 9, 2009. While we have yet to hear reporting of this matter in the mainstream Catholic press, we have come across a few outcries protesting the summary judgement on various anti-semitic blog sites.

The article by David Mastio, to which Sharpe took offense, can be found here: “Rank is wrong for Navy supremacist” The Virginia Pilot March 15, 2007. Vivian Page (All Politics is Local) relays the background:

Back in 2007, the Pilot printed an article about Lt. Cmdr. John Sharpe, who was relieved of his duty as the public affairs officer on the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. Sharpe was being investigated for heading two anti-Semitic groups, the Legion of St. Louis and IHS Press. The Southern Poverty Law Center identified these groups as “two of the most nakedly anti-Semitic organizations in the entire radical traditionalist Catholic pantheon.” (This article was the result of an earlier article printed in Portfolio Weekly which is no longer available online.)

The article prompted this editorial, written by then editorial writer David Mastio. In it, Mastio takes the Navy to task for not having noticed that Sharpe’s writings had been available on the internet for five years. In the process, Mastio – as only Mastio can – uses some inflammatory language to describe Sharpe, like the following: “His views veer from insanely pacifist conspiracy theories to chest-thumping jingoism with barely a speed bump in between.”

What follows are excerpts from Judge Norman A. Thomas’ summary judgement in the matter of John Sharpe v. Landmark Communications, Inc., d/b/a The Virginian-Pilot and David Mastio [PDF format].

With respect to the particular public controversy inquiry, the Court finds that Sharpe, writing from the perspective of an advocate of his personal interpretations of the very conservative Catholic Social Doctrine, frequently writes or compiles, re-publishes, or endorses the writings of others that criticize the alleged role of Jews and their perceived conspiratorial efforts to dominate the United States Government, world financial markets, the media, and world events, including but not limited to, the September 11, 2001 attacks by Islamic extremists in the United States and the resultant United States’ and other western nations’ involvement in armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. While relatively broad in their scope, Sharpe’s writings and those which he otherwise published or endorsed on the websites of the Legion of St. Louis or the IHS Press (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Sharpe’s writings” or “his writings”) coalesce around one common denominator, that is, suspicion and criticism of the role of Jews in world events, including the perceived cause and effect of such Jewish efforts on the downfall on western Christendom and, in particular, Catholicism. Sharpe’s writings take a macro view of perceived Jewish influence, variously referring to it in such ways as “Judeo-Masonry”, the “Jewish Nation”, “World Judaism”, “World Jewry”, and “depending upon who is asked, what makes someone Jewish, is anything from their religious persuasion to their ethnicity, to their nationality, to the religion or ethnicity of their maternal parent.” Special Feature: WTC and the Pentagon Attacked. Part III, a writing authored by Sharpe and published circa October 16, 2001, on the website of the Legion of St. Louis. […]

In paragraph three of the March 15, 2007 editorial the defendants state that, “Sharpe’s views aren’t dangerous because they are openly racist and anti-Semitic, though that would be bad enough. His ideas are dangerous because they’re crazy, and when uttered by a commissioned officer, they take on the aura of authority”. Although one might argue that the defendants uttered only opinion in stating that Sharpe’s views are “openly racist and anti-Semitic”, Sharpe claims that the defendants therein make factual assertions and defamed him by doing so. Complaint, paragraphs 6 and 20.

Viewed as allegedly defamatory factual statements respecting Sharpe’s views, the Court grants the defendants summary judgment. The Court, having thoroughly reviewed the corpus of Sharpe’s writings, and especially those selections personally authored by him, concludes as a matter of law that the writings do espouse anti-Semitic and racist views.

[…]

Sharpe’s views, as expressed in his personally authored writings, align almost perfectly with both the traditional and more modern expanded definitions of the term “anti-Semitism”. Indeed, on one occasion, Sharpe admitted, in effect, that a hypothetical enlisted member of his command might well have considered his writings to be anti-Semitism.

[…]

No reasonable person can read Sharpe’s individual writings and conclude that he espouses anything other than a deep, abiding and pervasive suspicion of and hostility toward Jews, whether considered as a collective people, religion, nation or ethnic group. From his perspective as an advocate of the Catholic Social Doctrine, he considers Jews to be in direct competition with western Christendom, in fact, seeking to bring about its end, and also responsible in whole or in part for nefarious and self-centered domination of the United States Government, one or more of its former Presidents, the media, the world financial markets, and, bearing responsibility for such events as the terrorist attacks on
United States soil occurring on September 11, 2001.

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