When I spoke to former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Jeff Greene two days after he lost the election in Florida to Kendrick Meek, he told me he planned to sue the St. Pete Times/Miami Herald combo for $100 million, over what he called a libelous story (he said he was reading over the legal paperwork even as we spoke, and ended with “I hope they have good insurance…” Well, apparently, in the ensuing weeks, Greene’s anger has increase by five orders of magnitude… Greene now wants $500 million, and he’s specifically targeting probably the most respected political reporter in the state: the Times’ Adam Smith:
“To me this is just as important as running for office,” Greene said of his libel suits against the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times. The billionaire investor claims that his multi-million dollar campaign for the Democratic nomination went down in flames, in part, due to reporting that was at best shoddy and at worst out-and-out biased. Greene seemed more inclined to believe the latter, suggesting that one reporter, the Times‘ venerated political correspondent Adam Smith, was more interested in taking down Greene than reporting the facts.
“It is our firm opinion that the allegations in this lawsuit are preposterous,” Times editor Neil Brown said in a statement. “We believe Jeff Greene is a sore loser and he’s blaming the newspapers because he can’t accept the verdict of the voters.”
Brown said the paper “gave Mr. Greene ample space to explain his positions” in its coverage, and said its coverage of his campaign was “fair, clear and the information was well-documented.”
But Greene says Smith’s reporting did not live up to that standard. Greene said that Smith told “a senior member of my campaign” that the paper was set to publish “a hit piece” in advance of Smith’s August profile of Greene that helped bring the infamous tales of Greene’s yacht to light.
“To me, the word ‘hit piece,’ means you’re attempting to hurt someone,” Greene said. He said that Smith “ignored the facts” in favor of publishing a story that proved to be quite damaging. Greene suggested that Smith set out to write a hit piece and take his candidacy down.
Greene repeated to TPM much of what he told The Reid Report: that the story about a California condo deal gone wrong was deliberately misleading and an attempt to “assassinate his character,” and that his campaign had internal polling showing that story is what turned the campaign around in Meek’s favor. (They have not released that polling so we can take a look.) And Greene said he’s suing to make the world safe for other rich, successful people who may be looking at what was done to him, and decide not to due their civic duty by getting involved in politics. And he probably said it all really fast because Greene talks really, really fast. Faster than I do, and that’s saying something…
Now at this point I should remind you that I write a column for the Herald portion of the Times/Herald news beast, so while Greene seems to me to be a perfectly nice fellow, I’ll be rooting for the beastie. Full disclosure.