In July of 2012, the blog of the Competitive Enterprise Institute compared one of the researchers at Penn State University to one of its football coaches.

The comparison was not flattering, given the referenced coach had just been convicted of sexually abusing minors. That comparison was then echoed favorably by a blogger and columnist at the National Review.

The scientist in question, climatologist Mike Mann, sued them all for defamation.

The case has struggled through the courts ever since.

The defendants tried to get it dismissed under the District of Columbia’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, which attempts to keep people from being silenced by frivolous lawsuits.

The judge hearing the case denied the attempt and then promptly retired; Mann next amended his complaint, leading an appeals court to send the whole thing back to a new trial judge.

Now the new judge has denied the SLAPP attempt yet again. In a decision released late last week (and hosted by defendant Mark Steyn), the judge recognizes that the comparison to a child molester is part of the “opinions and rhetorical hyperbole” that are protected speech when used against public figures like Mann. However, the accompanying accusations of fraud are not exempt:     

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