Terry Lakin Gets a Public Retraction from CNN Anchor

by MARGARET CALHOUN HEMENWAY August 17, 2010
Terry Lakin, the Army doctor who is being court martialled for refusing to obey orders has demanded - and received - a retraction from CNN for defamatory comments that Jeffrey Toobin made about him.

Lakin appeared on the "Anderson Cooper 360" program with his lead counsel, Paul Rolf Jensen on May 7, 2010. A few days later, CNN aired on the same program a panel discussion with three lawyers, the purpose of which was to discuss LTC Lakin and his case. During that program, the following colloquy took place between Messrs. Cooper and Toobin, and a photo of LTC Lakin was displayed during Mr. Toobin's remarks:
 
COOPER: It is sad, this guy has given 18 years of service, apparently served honorably, was a doctor, and then seems to be tossing out his career for this. I mean there are principled stands you can take...
 
TOOBIN: In your interview you kept saying what an honorable man he is. You know, as they say at the Supreme Court, I think I dissent. You know, these people are bigots, they're racists, they're freaks, they're lunatics, these are not rational players in American politics...

On June 8, 2010, Jensen wrote CNN President Jonathan Klein as well as Mr. Toobin. In that letter, Jensen wrote:
 
"Mr. Toobin's statement is patently false. LTC Lakin is neither irrational, a racist, a bigot, a freak, or a lunatic. Nor is there any rational basis to conclude he is any of these things, which of course was Mr. Cooper's point. Mr. Toobin, unlike Mr. Cooper, made this statement without ever speaking with LTC Lakin (or likely anyone that knows him.) Mr. Toobin's statement was understood to pertain to LTC Lakin and appears to have been made with actual malice, and particularly in the context given, which is Mr. Toobin contradicting Mr. Cooper saying LTC Lakin's professional service was honorable, attacks my client's professional character and standing.
 
For these reasons, Mr. Toobin's statement constitutes per se defamation, and is unconscionable, and LTC Lakin demands it be immediately retracted, on air during the "Anderson Cooper 360" program. Your failure to make such a retraction will leave us no choice but to sue for defamation without further notice or demand."
 
Immediately upon receipt of Jensen's letter, CNN's Vice President and General Counsel David Vigilante contacted Jensen, and although he denied the statement was defamatory, he agreed that CNN would require Toobin to retract the statement, and true to his word, last month this is exactly what aired:
 
TOOBIN: Anderson, can I just add one point on an unrelated matter?

COOPER: Sure. Yes.

TOOBIN: A couple of weeks ago, we did a story about Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin. He is the officer who has tried to get out of military service because he believes that President Obama was not born in the United States. He's one of the so-called birthers. In the course of that report, I made the statement that a lot of the birthers are bigots and racists and there was a picture of Lakin behind me.

I didn't mean to suggest that he was a bigot and a racist. I was just talking more generally. And I also should correct myself. He wasn't trying to get out of military service. He is the subject of a court Martial, that's why we were doing the story. But I didn't mean to imply that about him.

COOPER: OK, Jeff, thanks.

Both videos can be viewed on the website of the American Patriot Foundation,
www.safeguardourconstitution.com.

LTC Lakin accepts this second statement as a complete retraction of the first. Although it is regrettable that it took Jensen's threat of litigation to compel Toobin to take back his words, the fact remains that CNN did the right thing in airing this retraction. "The matter is now closed," Lakin stated. "CNN and Toobin did the right thing to clear my name, and while I was ready to file suit if necessary to protect my reputation, I am glad my attorney was successful without having to do so."

Lakin is a Lt. Colonel with almost 18 years of unblemished service to the Army, with six tours of duty abroad, including tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. He is a physician and has been awarded the Bronze Star for his service. He believes that his oath to support and defend the United States Constitution has compelled him to act as he has, because President Obama's eligibility under the Constitution to hold office has been seriously questioned, and the President has refused all requests to release documents that he claimed existed, which could determine his eligibility.

Immediately prior to Lakin's refusal to deploy, his commander, COL Dale Block wrote of Lakin, "Dr. Lakin is an extremely talented, highly knowledgeable senior Army clinician...he can always be counted on to provide me with expert advice...LTC Lakin is clearly one of the top clinicians in the Northern Regional Medical Command. He has superb clinical skills, rapport with patients and staff...Terry is the best choice for tough assignments...Already on the promotion list to Colonel, he should be groomed for positions of greater responsibility." COL Block concluded by describing LTC Lakin as "best qualified" and recommended that LTC Lakin be selected for duty as a Clinic Commander (in other words, Block's own position).

The American Patriot Foundation, a non-profit group incorporated in 2003 to foster appreciation and respect for the U.S. Constitution, which has established a fund for Lakin's legal defense to LTC Lakin. Further details are available on the Foundation's website,
www.safeguardourconstitution.com.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Margaret Calhoun Hemenway spent 15 years on Capitol Hill, in the House and Senate, and five years as a White House appointee serving President Bush at both DoD and NASA. For further information, contact: Margaret Hemenway at (202) 448-9015.

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