Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller Sues to Find Out Who Said Mean Things About Him on Wikipedia

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Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller has filed a lawsuit to learn the identity of someone who said mean things about him on the wildly popular Internet collaborative resource site Wikipedia (‘Wiki’ as in the collaborative wiki software, ‘pedia’ as in “encyclopedia”). Anybody can update or edit a listing in Wikipedia, which is both its strength and, some would say, its weakness.

In the case of the entry for Fuzzy Zoeller, someone had written “Zoeller went public with his alcoholism and prescription drug addiction, explaining that at the time he made those statements, he was “in the process of polishing off a fifth of Jack (Daniels) after popping a handful of vicodin pills”. He further detailed the violent nature of his disease, recalling how he’d viciously beat his wife Dianne and their four children while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. He also admitted feigning a ruptured spinal disc in 1985 so as to be prescribed a multitude of prescription medication. He sought professional help and mended his fractured familial relationships. In May 2006, Zoeller said in an interview with Golf Digest magazine that he hadn’t beaten his wife in nearly five years.”


Now, true or not, and Zoeller staunchly maintains that it is not true – and we have no reason to disbelieve him – suing to find out who said it is probably not the smartest thing to have done. For one thing, thousands if not millions more people – people who would never normally read Wikipedia – will learn about the ‘allegations’ because of the lawsuit. For another, Zoeller is unable to sue Wikipedia directly, because Wikipedia is protected by the law (and, by the way, Wikipedia has already removed that entry). So instead of leaving it and walking away, or perhaps making a public statement, Zoeller is suing the company where the computer used to add the Wikipedia entry is located. That organization is the Miami-based consulting firm of Josef Silny & Associates, presumably an innocent third-party themselves.

Said Fuzzy Zoeller’s attorney, Scott Sheftall, “Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information. The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this. Otherwise, we’re all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity.”

Funny, for a guy who takes stock in what the Court says, Sheftall seems to have a glaring blind spot for what the Court said in that famous case of Hustler versus Falwell: that the First Amendment mandates that public figures (and Zoeller certainly is a public figure) must prove that a false public statement (such as, arguably, the Wikipedia entry) “was made with actual malice, or with knowledge that the statement was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether it was true.” Further a reasonable person would have to be able to believe that it was true (and because we have told you that it is not true, and have only quoted the offending Wikipedia entry for purposes of context, our own repetition of that untruth fails that test).

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And, as mentioned above, Wikipedia has already removed the offending entry, voluntarily, further leading one to wonder why Zoeller is pursuing the author through the courts.

Remember, Fuzzy , sticks and stones may break your bones, but filing a spite lawsuit can only hurt you.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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Other Amount:
What info did you find here today?:

3 thoughts on “Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller Sues to Find Out Who Said Mean Things About Him on Wikipedia

  1. Go Fuzzy.Someone used a public spot to slander another person, so they better be ready to support their comments.What is the difference betwen wiki and myspace or others when attacking others? Hopfully it will make teens or others slow down attacking others using public access sites.
    Your right about it being wiki’s weak point, but until it was brought up, it would have been taken as truth.
    Go Fuzzy – from a non golfer but recognize his name and would also have assumed it as truth as published.

  2. The author of this slander specifically chose a public person like Fuzzy Zoeller to maximize the pain he wished to inflict on this family. He may survive the special test required by law to be prosecutable, but he will not be spared the cost and time associated with defending his slander in a court of law. It is ironic that justice has to be meted out in such a secondary manner to this gossip monger who did not feel any concern for the family or lies he was fomenting. Zoeller wins on two fronts from this action: (1) He inflicts a financial penalty on the author of these lies, and this should give other gossip mongers pause for thought about their irresponsible actions; (2) His personal and family reputation will be restored. BTW, I suspect he can financially afford the subsequent legal action far better than the slanderer. This is probably a cost that the author of these lies never considered when he tried to destroy this good man. I am wondering just how much justice this teller of lies can really afford.

  3. I hope Fuzzy sues the pants off of them. Wikipedia can remove the entry, but it is already cached in Google. It can’t be erased.

    If people want to say crappy untrue things about others, let them stand up and announce who they are instead of hiding behind Wiki’s skirts.

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