The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRIEDMAN
Gale Winn brings this action pro se against United Press International ("UPI") and Robert Kennedy, the former President of UPI, alleging defamation, misrepresentation and tortious interference with contractual rights. Defendants published a wire service report that plaintiff alleges included defamatory information about her and her corporation, Miss Black Virginia Pageant, Inc. ("MBVP"). Defendants have moved for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is to be granted only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c), FED. R. CIV. P. Where the non-moving party has the burden of proof at trial, on summary judgment the moving party need only demonstrate the absence of evidence supporting the non-movant's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); American Fed'n of Gov't Employees v. Skinner, 280 U.S. App. D.C. 262, 885 F.2d 884, 893-94 (D.C. Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 495 U.S. 923, 109 L. Ed. 2d 321, 110 S. Ct. 1960 (1990). The non-movant cannot rest solely upon her pleadings, but must set forth specific, probative facts showing that there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). "The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 247-48 (emphasis in original).
At the time this dispute arose plaintiff was president of MBVP, producer of the annual Miss Black Virginia and Future Miss Black Virginia Pageants. Compl. PP 1, 3. The pageants were held in Richmond, Virginia, from 1985 through 1991 and in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1992. Defs.' Mot. Ex. 15 at 33; Reply Ex. 61 at 20-21. Plaintiff was responsible for producing the pageants, promoting participants and winners, recruiting staff, auditioners, celebrity participants, advertisers and sponsors, soliciting scholarships and prizes and representing the pageants in the media. Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. P P 6.
On August 7, 1992, The Virginian-Pilot, a southeastern Virginia newspaper, published the story Miss Black Virginia 1991 Calls Pageant "A Fraud," in which past contestants and sponsors criticized the pageant for failing to deliver promised prizes to winners, failing to properly recognize sponsors and generally conducting poor operations. Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. U; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 3 ("Pilot article"). Employees in UPI's Richmond bureau picked up the story, edited it and redistributed it over UPI's Virginia (and possibly Maryland) morning and afternoon news wires. Click Dep. Tr. at 32-40; see Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. B; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2 ("UPI Article").
Plaintiff alleges that the UPI wire service article was defamatory, specifically with regard to the following statements:
This year's Miss Black Virginia and Future Miss Black Virginia pageants were held in Norfolk after being moved from Richmond. . . . Critics said the pageant was moved from Richmond because of complaints on how it is run.
[Jacqueline] Brayboy [a former Miss Black Virginia] got $ 1000.00, no clothes and only recently got a confirmation of her plane ticket.
Miss Black Virginia 1990, Tamika Lamison, says she was constantly hit up for money to run the pageant, the paper reported, but she did not know where the money was going.
Tamika said . . . that two years after winning she is still looking for the rest of her prize money.
She told the paper that she sent out 50 to 60 letters of complaint to businesses.
Compl. P 8.
Plaintiff also alleges intentional misrepresentation and tortious interference with contract. Compl. PP 13, 18. Plaintiff claims that she has been injured in her business and her reputation and prays ...