Kentucky State Court Dismisses
Defamation & Invasion of Privacy Case
Against Clear Channel and Former Talk Radio Host
Plaintiffs JOHN W. HAYS and TAMRA GORMLEY sued Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc. d/b/a 84WHAS (“WHAS”) and John Ziegler, a former talk radio host, for
comments Ziegler made about HAYS and GORMLEY on the radio. HAYS and GORMLEY, who are married, alleged claims for defamation and invasion of privacy.
This month, the Jefferson County Circuit Court dismissed these claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Ziegler’s radio show discussed, among other things, Kentucky politics. On March 10, 2003, Ziegler discussed the then-recent indictments of several
people in a vote buying scandal. Three of the people who were indicted were Ross Harris, John Doug Hays, and Brenda Hays. John Doug Hays is John W.
Hays’ father and TAMRA GORMLEY'S father-in-law. Brenda Hays is John Doug Hays’ wife, JOHN W. HAYS’ step-mother and TAMRA GORMLEY's step-mother-in-law.
On his March 10th broadcast, Ziegler commented on the “incestuous” nature of politics in Kentucky. Specifically, Ziegler stated that Ross Harris was a
major contributor to Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler, hosting an event that raised $134,500 for Chandler’s gubernatorial campaign.
Zeigler opined that as Attorney General, Chandler had a conflict of interest in accepting contributions from Harris. Ziegler also expressed his
surprise that no one in Kentucky was talking about this. Finally, Ziegler stated that he received an e-mail from someone “that kind of brought it all
home here with regard to this case involving Ross Harris and – and John Doug Hays.”
These statements, the only ones Ziegler made about the Plaintiffs, served as the basis for HAYS and GORMLEY's claims.
Ziegler’s statements included the following:
“Ross Harris was indicted Friday along with John Doug Hays and his wife Brenda Hays.”
“John Doug and Brenda Hays have a son, John Hays, who is an attorney in Versailles where Ben Chandler happens to be from.”
“JOHN GORMLEY, the guy, the attorney in Versailles where Ben Chandler is from, is married to an attorney. TAMRA GORMLEY. TAMRA GORMLEY is her name.”
“Now, until she [TAMRA GORMLEY] quit in 2000 to run unsuccessfully for commonwealth attorney in the Woodford/Scott County areas, TAMRA was director of
the victims advocacy division at the office of attorney general.”
“At the time that she quit the OAG, TAMRA was "tight" with none other than Ben Chandler.”
The court held that Ziegler’s statements about HAYS and GORMLEY were substantially true and, thus, could not support the defamation claim. First,
Ziegler accurately reported the contents of the e-mail, regardless of whether the information in the e-mail was true. Second, HAYS and GORMLEY
themselves admitted that Ziegler’s comments were substantially true. The only two statements Plaintiffs challenged were that Brenda Hays was John W.
Hays mother and that GORMLEY was “tight” with Chandler.