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Court Sides With 'The New York Times' in Professor's Defamation Case

March 1, 2019

A federal judge in Florida this week threw out horticulturalist Kevin Folta’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. Folta, a professor at the University of Florida, sued the Times and one of its reporters after they published an article about Folta’s ties to agricultural biotechnology companies including Monsanto. Folta previously faced allegations that he was too cozy with Monsanto, especially as he’d publicly advocated for genetically modified crops as safe to eat and good for the global food supply. Folta accepted some funds from “Big Ag” but he said it never impacted his scientific judgment.

Folta in his lawsuit called the Times’s reporting misleading and rife with “anti-GMO” bias. But Chief Judge Mark E. Walker ordered that the case be dismissed with prejudice, as is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Folta declined comment to the Tallahassee Democrat. Mark Caramanica, attorney for the Times, reportedly said, "This is a case that should have never been brought, over an important story based on Folta’s own communications that shed light on public academics’ relationships with the food industry."

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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