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Stranger sued over Drunk of the Week photo

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-42-02-amA Vancouver, Washington woman is suing 11th and Pine-headquartered The Stranger after she says the alt-weekly included her bare-breasted photograph in its “Drunk of the Week” feature when she was actually celebrating her grandma’s 90th birthday in Pittsburgh.

Ex-Stranger photographer Kelly O’Neil is also named in the defamation suit brought last week on behalf of Tamar Hage against Stranger parent company, Index Newspapers:

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“In addition to the false statements, given the date of The Stranger issue, all of the references in the piece would lead a reader to believe that Plaintiff’s actions, and the photo, occurred during the Thanksgiving, 2015 time period,” Hage’s lawyers write. “In fact, on Thanksgiving, 2015, Plaintiff was in Pittsburgh celebrating her Grandmother’s 90th birthday. Plaintiff was not drunk during the Thanksgiving time period.”

In its response, The Stranger claims the photo — since pulled from the paper’s sites — was of a woman named Lisa, not Hage. In an email, Stranger GM Laurie Saito attempted to clear the air after the paper was contacted by Hage:

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Hage’s lawyers say the woman Saito referred to in her letter as “Lisa Miller” turned out to be Lisa Marceau Lorincz, described as a friend of O’Neil’s who “denies ever signing a release for defendant O’Neil and denies ever being the subject of a photograph where her bare breast and nipple are exposed.” Hage’s lawyers added this kicker to the allegations:

Additionally, upon information and belief, at the time The Stranger and O’Neil claim the topless Drunk of the Week photograph was taken of Lisa Marceau Lorincz, Ms. Lorincz was in fact undergoing breast cancer treatment, had not yet undergone reconstruction surgery, and could not have been the subject of a photograph depicting a bare breast and nipple at that time.

In its response, The Stranger has continued to deny that the photograph shows Hage. It also makes it clear O’Neil is no longer a Stranger employee in its filing asking the court to dismiss the case.

Hage’s lawyers are seeking damages in an amount to be proven at trial, interest, and legal costs. “The abusive, embarrassing and humiliating Drunk of the Week piece and the defendants’ deceptive conduct have caused Plaintiff to suffer great emotional distress and Plaintiff manifested physical symptoms arising from her emotional distress,” Hage’s lawyers write. “After the Drunk of the Week piece was posted and published, Plaintiff began to receive communications from her family, friends and former work colleagues who recognized Plaintiff in the Drunk of the Week piece and saw the topless photo of her.”

While it appears to be of a much smaller scale, the Stranger lawsuit comes amid increasing concerns for us in the news industry about the impact of defamation litigation on journalism in the wake of the Hulk Hogan-Gawker case that left the aggressive news company bankrupt.

Last November, CHS reported on a new lease for the Stranger that will keep it in its Capitol Hill headquarters through 2020. The Stranger has not yet responded to our inquiries about the case.

Meanwhile, O’Neil’s final Drunk of the Week ran in February, 2016.

The case’s trial date is slated for September 2017.

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12 thoughts on “Stranger sued over Drunk of the Week photo

  1. Wait, so is Hage saying the picture is definitely her, but was obtained without consent? Or that the picture can’t be her because of the timeframe – and yet it also can’t be the person The Stranger claims it to be?

    I also didn’t realize that Kelly O had left the Stranger – which shows how little I pay attention to it these days.

  2. If a “Drunk of the Week” is what it sounds like it is, it seems childish and petty. I quit reading The Stranger many years ago and it seems I’m not missing much.

  3. Drunk of the week was a cute thing Kelly used to do. The fact that someone is trying to persecute her when they can’t even prove that they are the person pictured is preposterous.

    • Not at all. It sounds like The Stranger alleged this person was the person in the photograph without even doing the slightest check. And no, this wasn’t cute. It’s childish and downright borish really.

      Also, Kello O trying to make a play as if she’s Wendy O Williams? Because lol. She wishes.

  4. I’ve known Tamar, and the picture did look exactly like her, especially from the time period when she lived here and believes the picture was taken; I’d be extremely surprised if it wasn’t her. Not sure I support suing them, but since it sounds like they refused to apologize, and instead decided to lie about it, I don’t feel too bad for them.

  5. Kelly O left? because of this? She’s been there forever. I request a CHS roundup of who’s still there and who’s gone. They never announce anything.

  6. “concerns for us in the news industry about the impact of defamation litigation”

    yeah, i guess. but I also think you and others will be OK as long as you avoid posting stolen porn or images of naked people who aren’t able to give informed consent. All the President’s Men this is not.

    I hope the owner of the nipples – whoever that may be – can move on from this stupid ordeal. if it makes her feel any better, i actively avoided this section of the paper.

  7. The Stranger has always been a mix of some good reporting along with too much sensationalist trash. But the past few years it is more trash and very light on news. If there is justice in the world The Stranger will end up folding over this.

  8. wow this is the end of the stranger, they are going to get Gawkered, i guess this is what happens when you don’t really have strong editorial oversight. they are so fucked..

  9. there are a few things the stranger has published in the past few years which has left me feeling like they aren’t long for this world. i remember a few years ago when the stranger wrongly accused a Bellevue man of not tipping at a capitol hill bar and then published his details on the website for commenters to slander. I also remember when Kelly O ripped a local model to pieces over a city arts photoshoot they should of fired her ass years ago, and simply the fact that she was fired and got scooted out the door quietly shows that this story has legs.