Reed in legal battle over website forum

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is battling with a national website whose forum users have offered speculations on his dating life that he says are not true.

Reed hired Randy Evans of the McKenna Long & Aldridge law firm to send a cease-and-desist demand letter dated Oct. 8 to the firm providing web hosting to Lipstick Alley. The mayor declined comment through his spokeswoman, referring reporters to Evans’ letter.

The letter singles out three posts – from January, April and September of this year – that make statements about who Reed, who’s single, might be seeing socially.

In response, the company that had hosted Lipstick Alley pulled the site. A second hosting company, however, has since put it back up.

“As evidenced by the fact the first host took it down, you simply can’t print things that are untrue,” said Evans, a prominent Republican attorney who has served as an adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and lawyer to Gov. Nathan Deal.

A Michigan woman runs the website as an open message board for topics of interest to African-American women. An attorney for Lipstick Alley said the woman has no interest in Atlanta politics.

Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington, D.C. also said the website has no way or legal responsibility to prove or disprove either the statements or Reed’s denials.

“If he has a case to make, he should make it against the critics just as you wouldn’t shut down the post office because of alleged defamatory letters sent through the mail,” Levy said.

“And I don’t think it’s defamatory to say a single guy is playing the field among women,” he added. “Maybe titillating, but not malicious.”

Evans disagreed. The company was not responsible for the comments before Reed gave notice that they are untrue. Now that they know Reed’s objections, Evans said, they and the web host are obligated to remove them.

As of Friday afternoon, however, the comments remained on the site, sprinkled among celebrity gossip and complaints about job searches. Reed is also elsewhere on the site. The first post on a search of his name shows his appearance on “Meet The Press” earlier this fall, defending President Obama.

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