Patrick Brown’s publisher says the former Progressive Conservative leader’s tell-all book is not defamatory because the facts laid out in it are true.
Optimum Publishing International also says any opinions expressed in “Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown” are fair comment made without malice on matters of public interest.
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has filed a defamation lawsuit against Brown and Optimum over allegations made in the book, which he describes in his statement of claim as a “vicious and petulant attack on his character.”
Fedeli alleges the book contains false and defamatory comments about alleged sexual misconduct and a slew of other problematic statements.
In their statement of defence, Optimum and its director, Dean Baxendale, say the book makes it clear the allegations of sexual misconduct against Fedeli have not been verified “in court or by way of a workplace investigation.”
They also say they and Brown took reasonable steps to verify the contents of the book, “including obtaining relevant documents and speaking with multiple sources.”
The statements at issue in the lawsuit “constitute responsible communication on matters of public interest,” including Brown’s resignation as Tory leader and the appointment of a new leader, as well as Fedeli’s involvement in those events, the statement of defence argues.
What’s more, the statement of defence claims Fedeli has not suffered any damage to his reputation as a result of the book.
“Fedeli remains Ontario’s finance minister as part the PCPO government, holding one of the most powerful positions for any elected representative in the province,” it says. “The Optimum defendants state that any harm done Fedeli’s reputation, which is not admitted but denied, is a result of Fedeli’s own conduct and that he has failed to mitigate same.”
Brown, who stepped as party leader last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies, issued the book in November, after he was elected mayor of Brampton, Ont.
In it, he paints himself as a victim of a political conspiracy orchestrated by senior Tory officials.
He wrote that Fedeli faced accusations of “inappropriate behaviour” by a party staffer in December 2017, which the finance minister has denied.
Fedeli takes issue with a number of statements in the book that he says are defamatory, including allegations that he is a hypocrite, a “suck up,” disloyal and unfaithful, according to his claim.
Neither his claim nor the publisher’s statement of defence have been proven in court.