My Response to Attorney Youmans' Cease and Desist Letter

Rana Abbas's head, Imad Hamad's hat
Below is my response to the “Cease and Desist” Letter of Mr. Youmans. I have added subheadings that were not in the original letter for ease of reading.

 Dear Mr. Youmans:

I am writing in response to your Cease and Desist letter sent by email to my work email. Please have all future communication sent to [Personal address and email removed]

And since I have a PhD please address me as Dr. Alkhatib.
On Rana Abbas- Nothing Personal

As you are probably aware, I have nothing personal against your client Rana Abbas. I have known Rana since 2001 and we considered ourselves good friends until this unfortunate ADC crisis. Our relationship took a nosedive due to the Imad Hamad and ADC matter that she was involved with. I admit that in questioning her story, challenging her credibility, her timing and her motivations I have written entries that are unflattering to her that may reasonably cause her to be upset- a result that I sincerely regret and have not intended. It is not my intention to upset anyone generally let alone her. The key issue here though is that her being upset by analysis and commentary on a matter largely of her own creation does not make a claim of defamation.

Blogging ADC and Imad Hamad

Apart from my full-time job as political science professor at Murray State University, I have a blog where I provide commentary, analysis and opinion on Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Law and Islam. I have become involved with the ADC matter as soon as it broke out as an observer and a commentator due to a number of factors among which are my relationship with Imad Hamad, ADC and my interest in Arab American issues. Even though it is not material to a defamation claim, it is worth noting that at no point in time was I motivated by animus toward your client who, incidentally, was my wife’s best friend and a frequent visitor to our home in Michigan until this matter unfortunately ended their close friendship.
Rana Abbas: A limited Public Figure

Your client is a limited public figure. This is a matter of public concern. I categorically and unequivocally deny that I defamed your client in any of my blog entries. You refer to my writings but I am not clear which entry and section you are referencing. I have written numerous entries on this matter, sometimes more than one on the same day. Some entries were posted, removed and then reposted at other times. Therefore, dates are not a good way of pointing out in which entry and how I allegedly defamed your client. I have also raised the same issues and used the same terms, not necessarily the ones you single out, in more than one entry. Providing me with a printout of the specific entries with the alleged defamatory material highlighted would help me provide you a response that addresses your concerns fully and accurately.
Defamation versus Conclusions and Inferences

However, let me hazard a response based on the limited information you provide. You enumerated three specific areas of contention. You cite my usage of the words “lies” and “untruths” in my commentary in my blog entries on the matter. Again it would help if you can provide a printout. But, generally speaking, whenever I used these terms it was in the course of commentary/conclusions based on inference and argument based on the public information available at the time. These were conclusions based on the available information and my reading, understanding and assessment of the information. I have made that clear in my blog entries.
My Inference and Conclusion that Rana Abbas Ghostwrote the Editorial

As to my statement that Rana ghost wrote the editorial in the Arab American News/Sada Al Watan that was an inference and a conclusion I drew given my knowledge of who writes for that paper, my familiarity with Rana’s writing style and given her position as a Contributing Editor. There is no actual malice here. I did not know nor did I have reason to know that she, in fact, did not write it. I did not blind myself to the "truth." I still think and believe she did. No one on the planet, let alone from the paper, contacted me at any time to challenge my inference and conclusion and deem my inference/conclusion defamatory of Rana.
The “Daunting Task” of Meeting the Actual Malice Standard

In writing the blog entries I am exercising my first amendment rights to comment about issues of public importance and this is one of them. This is a matter that has received local, national and international attention due in large measure to the publicity, the interviews and the public appearances of Rana herself. Rana, as a result of the ADC/Imad Hamad issue, is a limited public figure and the actual malice standard applies to her as to the writing on this controversial and admittedly divisive matter. In order for your client to prevail in a claim of defamation she has to show by clear and convincing evidence that I made statements with “actual malice.” New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964). There is not a shred of evidence of actual malice on my part let alone clear and convincing evidence.
Unflattering? Yes, Defamatory? No

As you know, defamation law cannot be used to prevent me as a commentator on issues of public interest from drawing any inferences or from making any arguments or drawing any conclusions based on available information especially when I make it clear that it is opinion and commentary. Defamation law and the threat of a defamation lawsuit cannot be solely premised on the commentary being unflattering to your client.
Again, I would be more fully able to address your concerns if you provide me with copies of the material I wrote highlighting the alleged defamatory parts.

Until then I remain
Yours truly,

Ihsan Alkhatib, Esq., PhD



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