Local reporter, Fox sued over allegedly defamatory broadcast

SHARE Local reporter, Fox sued over allegedly defamatory broadcast

A former Cook County attorney is suing the Fox News Group and a local reporter after an allegedly defamatory story aired last February about his family’s candidacy in an upcoming county election.

Frank Gardner, who worked as an attorney for the county Department of Ethics and Human Rights until April 2014, filed the suit Monday in Cook County Circuit Court against Fox and WFLD-TV reporter Dane Placko.

Last February, Fox ran a piece by Placko that alleged Gardner’s wife and son — also named Frank — were running for seats on the Water Reclamation Board, the suit alleged.

In the story, Placko said that Gardner’s wife was going by her maiden name, Kathleen Mary O’Reilley.

“The defendants labeled Frank’s wife’s use of her maiden name as a deceptive election practice,” the suit stated. “It’s clear from the context of the entire broadcast that the defendants were claiming that the entire Gardner family was corrupt and dishonest.”

At the very end of the broadcast — which was still posted on WFLD’s website as of Monday night — Placko said that the elder Frank Gardner was also a board member of the Water Reclamation District, collecting two public pensions totaling $158,000 a year.

The pensions remark, the suit alleges, is defamatory on its face and “any reasonable investigation would have led to the conclusion that the claim was incorrect.”

Placko and a spokeswoman for Fox could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

The five-count suit alleges defamation, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortuous interference with a contract. It seeks more than $250,000 in damages.

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