Smith, a.k.a. Bradlee Dean, filed a lawsuit against Birkey this morning, alleging that Birkey and MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow took an excerpt from Smith's radio show out of context. In the suit, Smith accuses Birkey of targeting Smith because Birkey is, among other things, "a secularist and/or atheist and gay activist."
In a statement, The American Independent News Network, MnIndy's parent company, disputes the claim that Birkey was unfair in his reporting, noting that Birkey has received awards for "even-handed" coverage of Smith.
"The allegations by Bradlee Dean and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International (YCR) are completely without merit," the statement says.[jump]
The statement continues:
The American Independent News Network stands firmly behind our news site, The Minnesota Independent; our reporter, Andy Birkey; as well as their reporting on Dean and his ministry. The complaint describes Birkey as taking "a 'special interest' in Plaintiffs Dean and YCR because he is a secularist and/or atheist and gay activist with a politically left ideology who despises people of faith."
However, in giving Birkey and The Minnesota Independent first prize for Best Continuing Coverage of their reporting on YCR, the 2010 judges for the Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist's Page One Awards stated, "the reporter [Birkey] takes a deep-dive with an even-handed approach into a weighty subject sure to provoke controversy from various standpoints. Leads readers to think about serious public policy and constitutional issues."
We are confident that the courts will agree that this lawsuit is completely frivolous and is a blatant attempt to chill freedom of the press.
MSNBC released a slightly less detailed statement:
This suit is baseless and we stand by our reporting.