BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled against former state Republican Party Chairman Trent Clark in his libel lawsuit against a Spokane,
The high court ruled May 24 that there was no evidence of actual malice when a reporter with The Spokesman-Review quoted Clark as saying, "You probably
cannot find an African-American male on the street in Washington, D.C., that
hasn't been arrested or convicted of a crime."
Clark has alleged he was misquoted in the 2001 article. He contends he actually said:
"I know of no African-American males in Washington, D.C., who don't have at
least a couple of friends who have been arrested or convicted of a felony."
But the unanimous justices found that the quote that appeared in reporter Thomas Clouse's article matched both Clouse's recollection of the comment and
"Nonetheless, even assuming for the purposes of argument that the published
statement was false, Clark still fails to meet the clear and convincing standard
necessary to survive summary judgment on the issue of actual malice," Justice
Roger Burdick wrote for the court.
Clark made his remarks in a story criticizing the newspaper's coverage of a
17-year-old drug incident involving a county Republican Party official. Clark
argued that the man should not be judged on long-past associations or
The article, published on Feb. 2, 2001, resulted in Clark's apologies to the
Idaho NAACP branch and others. At the time, then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
characterized Clark's handling of the situation as insensitive to blacks but
said the GOP chairman had "learned a great deal" from the case.
After the article was published, Clark sued, alleging the newspaper had
defamed him and portrayed him in a false light in the public eye. First District
Judge Eugene Marano dismissed Clark's claim, but Clark appealed, only to have
Judge Charles Hosack rule again in the newspaper's favor. Once again Clark
appealed, this time to the Supreme Court.
Clark did not return phone calls requesting comment in time for this story.
Carla Savalli, The Spokesman-Review's senior editor for local news, said she
was pleased with the ruling.
"We've stood by Tom Clouse's reporting on Mr. Clark from the beginning and
are gratified that the court affirmed our journalism by granting a summary
judgment," Savalli said. "It's been a long process and we're happy it's
The newspaper's circulation area includes much of Idaho.