Fox drops Al Franken lawsuit. The news channel throws in the towel after a judge blocks its injunction against the satirist's book

By Gary Susman
Updated August 26, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Al Franken
Credit: Al Franken: Alecsey Boldeskul/NY Photo Press/NewsCom

Is this the beginning of another Al Franken decade? The ”Saturday Night Live” player-turned-political pundit and satirist won his final victory over Fox News Channel on Monday when the cable channel dropped its lawsuit over his book ”Lies and they Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” The lawsuit, aimed at suppressing Franken’s new tome, ended up boosting its sales and generating mountains of free publicity for the author.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin blocked Fox’s bid for an injunction against Franken’s book. Fox had argued that it had trademarked the phrase ”fair and balanced” in 1998 as an advertising slogan, and that Franken’s title constituted infringment. (Fox also made a point of belittling Franken personally in its lawsuit, calling him a ”C-level political commentator” who “appears to be shrill and unstable” and whose views “lack any serious depth or insight.”) Franken’s camp responded that his parodic intent was both obvious and protected by the First Amendment. ”This is an easy case. The case is wholly without merit both factually and legally,” Judge Chin said in his ruling, according to the Associated Press. He added, ”It is ironic that a media company that should seek to protect the First Amendment is instead seeking to undermine it.”

At the time, a spokesperson suggested Fox would continue with the lawsuit, saying: ”We don’t care if it’s Al Franken, Al Lewis or Weird Al Yankovic, we’re going to protect our trademark and our talent.” On Monday, however, Fox abandoned the suit, with a Fox spokesperson telling AP, “It’s time to return Al Franken to the obscurity that he’s normally accustomed to.” Not likely. Not only did the lawsuit push ”Lies” to the top spot on Amazon’s sales chart and prompt publisher Penguin to increase its press run and release it to stores a month early, but the suit has also helped Franken get booked on TV outlets from CNN’s ”Crossfire” (where he’s co-hosting the panel this week) to David Letterman’s ”Late Show” on CBS. We’re guessing that he’s not going to be appearing on Fox, though.