First, the head of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) calls a press conference to complain about the Mackinac Center’s successes in promoting charter schools, educational choice and other reforms in public schools. Then when Mackinac quotes him in a fund-raising letter, the MEA sues Mackinac.
The MEA doesn’t claim that their president, Luigi Battaglieri, was misquoted. Instead, the union’s lawyers claim that Mackinac “misappropriated” Battaglieri’s name.
At the press conference announcing the start of their own “think tank,” Battaglieri said, “quite frankly, I admire what they [Mackinac] have done over the last couple of years entering into the field as they have and being pretty much the sole provider of research to the community, to the public, to our members, to legislators and so on.” In December, Mackinac President Lawrence Reed quoted Battaglieri saying, “quite frankly, I admire what they have done,” then added, “Mr. Battaglieri, whose union is generally at odds with the Mackinac Center, said this with respect to how Mackinac Center research has shaped education reform in Michigan and around the nation.”
Writing about the lawsuit in the Detroit News, Thomas Bray writes, “If it’s not fair to quote a well-known public figure like Battaglieri at a press conference he himself called, then we can forget about the First Amendment. It won’t be long before newspapers will be prohibited from quoting anything a politician, union official or businessman doesn’t want to see in print.” [Detroit News 6/2/02]