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Hannity

Legal Analysts on Whether Son's Girlfriend Can Sue Dog Chapman for Slanderous Remarks

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," November 8, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONIQUE SHINNERY, TUCKER CHAPMAN'S GIRLFRIEND: I believe that Duane is a racist, because I have heard many times what he says about me. Not just this one time. But a lot of things he says and a lot of things he does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: That was Monique Shinnery responding to Duane "Dog" Chapman's racially-charged phone conversation with his son, Tucker. Now, upon hearing the words of Shinnery, Dog Chapman offered the following apology in my exclusive sit-down with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUANE "DOG" CHAPMAN, COUNTY HUNTER: You know, I -- I am sorry, honey. I'm so sorry. I am not like that, you know that. I am very sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: And, apparently, his apology was not good enough, as news surfaced that Shinnery is looking to sue the "Dog" for making slanderous comments.

With us now, FOX News legal analysts, Lis Wiehl and Mercedes Colwin.

All right, Mercedes. How -- how is this possible? In his mind, it's a private conversation with the son. He doesn't know he's being taped. He doesn't release it. It's her and the boyfriend, as I understand it.

MERCEDES COLWIN, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, yes, that's the biggest problem, Sean. Because what they're doing is they're publishing what they seem -- they claim to be defamatory statements. These are statements that say, "That was injurious to my reputation. By the way, I'm going to publish them so the entire world knows this now."

HANNITY: This goes nowhere.

COLWIN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: It goes nowhere.

LIS WIEHL, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: He had...

HANNITY: Oh, here we go. Here comes the liberal.

WIEHL: He had a very -- in a strict legal standpoint, a injurious statement, which this certainly is, that's going to hurt someone's reputation. Even -- it does not have to be published.

HANNITY: It's a private phone conversation.

WIEHL: She didn't publish it. She didn't publish it. He did.

HANNITY: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. You can't -- you can't express your opinion to your son, how you feel about somebody, in a private phone conversation?

WIEHL: The son -- the son...

HANNITY: The son should be liable.

WIEHL: But they published it. They're the ones that published it.

HANNITY: They did.

WIEHL: The bigger issue, the bigger defense is that it's an opinion, rather than stating a fact.

HANNITY: That's right.

WIEHL: You can state an opinion rather than stating a fact.

HANNITY: And it was not meant for publication.

WIEHL: Without a problem.

HANNITY: They released it.

COLWIN: Well, what about..where is the injury, though? How are you going to say this injured my reputation? No one is going to not respect me because of these comments.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this question. Let's expand the argument. Is there a chance that, because if you're a public figure the standard is much, much higher. They made themselves public.

WIEHL: She was made a public figure because of this.

HANNITY: By her son -- by her boyfriend.

WIEHL: By her boyfriend. But we don't know that she had anything to do with it. That's the injury.

COLWIN: Now being a higher standard, there is a higher standard. You have to show malice. Reckless disregard, reckless disregard.

WIEHL: No, No.

WIEHL: She has made herself a public figure.

HANNITY: Next question...

WIEHL: She was not a public figure before this happened.

HANNITY: Shouldn't this -- if anyone is liable here, if anybody is liable, it would be her boyfriend for releasing it.

WIEHL: Then sue the boyfriend. Exactly, I would say that.

HANNITY: Well, they want the Dog's money. That's the point. This lawsuit is going nowhere, correct?

WIEHL: Legally, technically, legally, it will get to a judge and a jury.

HANNITY: Done. It will never happen.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hold on, hold on. We have to answer some basic questions here. Number one, was she at all involved with the release of this tape?

COLWIN: I think there might -- there is an argument, if I'm the defense attorney, I would say, "Wait a minute. Was she involved? Was she involved in the recording? Was she...

COLMES: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

COLWIN: It is the questions that have to be answered.

COLMES: If it can't be determined if was she involved in the release of this tape, Lis, does that affect this case?

WIEHL: Absolutely. But if she was transferred from a private figure to a public figure.

COLMES: By her own doing, if she was involved in the release of this tape.

WIEHL: By her own doing, that's true. Then that's against her. But if she had nothing to do with it, that's the damage right there.

COLMES: Next question, if she had nothing to do with it than is her suit against Dog or should it be against Tucker for releasing the tape?

COLWIN: It really -- who did the publication? Yes, he made the private statement but who did the publication?

COLMES: One at a time, one at a time.

COLWIN: In theory they can be both sued, but it's going to go back to who actually did the publication.

COLMES: All right. So if Tucker was the one who published it, who released it, is he the one who is liable?

COLWIN: That would be the theory.

COLMES: OK. Do you agree with that Lis, or no?

WIEHL: Because the publication would not have happened but for the statements that Dog said.

COLMES: But somebody published it. The person published it, is that person liable?

WIEHL: Right, right. But if you look -- I mean, I'm sorry to be so technical here.

COLMES: But look...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Mercedes is right here...

COLMES: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Let Lis speak. Go ahead.

WIEHL: The legal definition of slander: it's an injurious statement, an abusive statement on someone.

COLMES: So wait a minute.

WIEHL: And when you talk about it...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: Hold on. Let me get my question, please.

WIEHL: You do not have to have malice involved.

COLMES: Hold on. The person -- the person who released the tape, isn't that the liable party?

COLWIN: That's the publication.

COLMES: Lis.

WIEHL: Both, both.

COLMES: They're both liable.

WIEHL: The person that made the statement...

COLMES: Who's more liable, the person who made the statement or the person who released it?

WIEHL: I would say they're both in conspiracy and they...

COLMES: Do you agree with that or not?

COLWIN: Here's the difference, Alan. One, the publication is critical to the biggest issues here. The damages to the reputation, that's a critical issue right here. If you cannot show injury to your reputation: somehow individuals don't look at me in the same way, I have now has less esteem in the public because of these tapes.

COLMES: All right. But if Dog did not know he was being taped and didn't know it was going to go public...

COLWIN: Without that there is no definition.

COLMES: ... and therefore, didn't have that kind of malice toward publicizing this.

WIEHL: But you're all missing the point that malice aforethought is for someone that is a public figure. This woman until today was not a public figure.

COLWIN: Lis...She -- but with this publication. If there is some conspiracy between Tucker and Shinnery, then there's going to be the issue that she herself published the statements and then she can have all the benefits.

WIEHL: You have to look at what the status of the person was if she had nothing to do with it. I agree with you, yes.

HANNITY: It was a private conversation.

WIEHL: If she had nothing to do with the publication.

COLMES: We do know it was a private conversation. The question is who released it, what was her role in it, and what happens as a result of...?

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: The Dog didn't know he was being taped.

COLMES: We thank you both very much for being with us.

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