In a Chicago courtroom yesterday, a judge dismissed parts—but not all—of a defamation suit that former megachurch Pastor James MacDonald filed against radio host Mancow Muller. Although Muller’s attorney had requested that the whole suit be dismissed, he indicated being “pleased” with Thursday’s developments.
According to Daily Herald, Cook County Judge Eve Reilly dismissed MacDonald’s claims that Muller intentionally inflicted emotional distress, as well as counts related to illegal eavesdropping. “The judge issued an insightful ruling in dismissing some of the major counts in the complaint,” says Mark Roth, Muller’s attorney. Meanwhile, MacDonald’s attorney, Phillip Zisook, says, “We look forward to proceeding in this case and proving the falsity of Mr. Muller’s repugnant on-air and podcast statements about James MacDonald.”
Mancow Muller: Background on the Defamation Suit
James MacDonald, founder of megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC), filed the lawsuit against Mancow Muller and Cumulus Media, his radio station’s parent company, in December 2019, seeking damages of $50,000. MacDonald, who was fired from HBC in February of that year, alleges that Muller made false claims and called the host a “con man” to “build up listener interest for his radio/podcast shows.”
Muller, who has a reputation as a “shock jock,” played a recording of MacDonald apparently talking about planting child pornography on the computer of a Christianity Today editor. Muller later accused MacDonald of asking him to hire a hitman.
MacDonald has argued that the recorded conversation was private and obtained without permission. But Judge Reilly writes, “Muller was anonymously given the recording, and the published recording was ‘of public concern’ because it concerned the conduct and fitness of Plaintiff as pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel.” MacDonald may not refile the eavesdropping counts that were dismissed this week.
The Lawsuit Continues
Counts that weren’t dismissed deal with defamation as well as false light invasion of privacy. Defamation remains on the table, the judge writes, because Muller failed to demonstrate that MacDonald is a general or limited public figure. A new court date hasn’t been set.
Mancow Muller was a former friend of James MacDonald’s and once was a Harvest church member. Muller has said he “endorsed” MacDonald and HBC for years, but “when I found out the truth, I felt it was my duty to tell my listeners.” The host added, “For me, this has always been about trying to help people and trying to expose a bad guy.”