Buzzfeed has said that a story headlined "The King of Bullsh*t News" was not intended to be defamatory of news agency boss Michael Leidig.
The news and entertainment website has filed a defence in New York to Leidig's claim for $11m in damages.
Buzzfeed claimed in its 9,000-word article that Leidig's Vienna-based Central European News is "one of the Western media’s primary sources of tantalising and attention-grabbing stories". And it said that these stories are "often inaccurate or downright false".
Leidig claims that the story was not only untrue, but that it was intended by Buzzfeed to damage a competitor news provider. CEN's legal claim states that it lost 30 per cent of its sales after the Buzzfeed article was published as well as a six-figure investment.
Leidig is claiming $5m for damage to his own reputation, $5m for damage to the reputation of CEN and $1m in special damages for losses to the business. He also seeking further punitive damages.
In its defence, Buzzfeed claims the action must fail because:
The article is "substantially true"
Leidig is a "public figure" so under US law has to prove malice on the part of Buzzfeed
- Some of the statements he complained about are opinion
The article was published "without any intention to convey the allegedly defamatory impression" of Leidig
The article deals with matters "within the sphere of public concern" and which "were not published in a grossly irresponsible manner"
Leidig has "not been adversely affected in any way by the article"
- The article was privileged under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects freedom of speech