The National Review and the Liberty Lobby wound up a bitter three-week libel trial here yesterday with both sides' lawyers calling their opponents liars.
The conservative magazine, edited by columnist William F. Buckley Jr., is suing the right-wing political group for $16 million.
Yesterday, J. Daniel Mahoney, National Review's lawyer, said articles published by Liberty Lobby about Buckley and his magazine were part of a campaign of "lying and vilification." He accused Liberty Lobby's lawyer, Mark Lane, of resorting to a "big lie" by portraying Buckley as "antiblack."
"Their motive is clear," Mahoney told an all-black jury in U.S. District Court. "They think that will go a long way with this jury. I think you should feel insulted."
Lane responded that he "went to jail too many times with Dr. King to hear that kind of talk," referring to his civil rights activities in the 1960s with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He repeated his accusation that National Review is a "racist, pro-Nazi, pro-Fascist publication" and has "no reputation . . . that can be harmed."
Lane accused the magazine of publishing a "tissue of lies" in its 1971 article on Liberty Lobby's founder Willis A. Carto that portrayed him as pro-Hitler and quoted Carto as opposing "racial mongrelization" and favoring "repatriation" of blacks to Africa.
In his testimony, Carto did not deny the quotations but said the article was malicious and inaccurate on other points.
After receiving instructions from U.S District Judge Joyce Hens Green, the jury is expected to begin its deliberations this afternoon.
The convoluted case started in 1979 when the Liberty Lobby, based on Independence Avenue SE, sued National Review for libel because of an article, published that year, that said Carto and his organization funneled money to Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., a left-winger turned right-winger, and his National Caucus of Labor Committees.
National Review countersued about articles in Liberty Lobby's weekly newspaper, Spotlight.
In 1983 Green dismissed Liberty Lobby's claim against National Review. She also granted summary judgment for National Review on two counts, ruling that Liberty Lobby was guilty of libel for saying that National Review favored giving "militant sex deviates . . . the right to molest your children" and for calling the magazine a "mouthpiece" of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
Green said two remaining counts would have to be decided by a jury along with damages on all of the libel charges. Lane urged the jury yesterday to award just "two cents" in token damages. Mahoney said the case has already cost the magazine more than $261,000 in legal fees.
Lane said that by pressing its suit, National Review is trying to "shut down" Spotlight and "silence a dissenting voice" so the conservative movement will be "in lock step marching [behind] Mr. Buckley."
The two libel counts before the jury now concern statements in Spotlight that Buckley had a "close working relationship" with George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, and that the National Review article on Carto was a "muddled smear" prepared in collaboration with a John Birch Society member and Rabbi Meir Kehane, head of the Jewish Defense League.