Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife Robin are suing The National Enquirer and parent company American Media, Inc. (AMI) for $250 million in a defamation lawsuit, claiming the gossip mag has printed more than 80 false stories about their marriage over the past 13 years.
Their lawsuit comes on the heels of Hulk Hogan’s $140 million dollar victory over Gawker Media after the site published the ex-WWE’s superstar’s sex tape.
So would the McGraws have filed suit if Hogan had lost?
The couple’s lawyer L. Lin Wood tells FOX411 that “Hogan v. Gawker verdict did not motivate Dr. McGraw to sue American Media and National Enquirer. However, the verdict rendered against Gawker certainly does provide a measure of insight into how jurors react to tabloid unlawfully a celebrity’s privacy for profit.”
Hogan’s lawyer David Houston was happy to hear about the McGraws’ suit weeks after his client’s big win.
“Part of our goal in the Hogan case was to inspire other people to enforce their rights and not be the victims of rabid so-called journalists.” Houston said. “Congratulations to Dr. Phil. I hope there are many more to follow. It is time to draw a line and put an end to free willing victimization by those who prostitute the First Amendment. “
Wood said the McGraws' goal is indeed to stop media outlets from a “reckless” use of the First Amendment.
“Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are invaluable First Amendment rights. The right to redress false attacks on reputation is also an invaluable right that cannot be ignored," Wood said. "There is no value in false speech and there is no First Amendment protection for the knowing or reckless publication of lies.”
But like Gawker, American Media says it’s not backing down.
"AMI looks forward to successfully defending itself against Dr. Phil in a court of law, and exposing his stale and fraudulent claims for what they really are,” an AMI rep said in an email.
Gawker declared bankruptcy and is up for sale. According to reports, an auction is set for August 16th with a $90 million bid from publisher Ziff Davis LLC on the table, and several other companies rumored to be intersted.
But Wood claims his clients’ intentions are not to financially cripple AMI, saying they have plenty of cash.
“Despite its reported financial situation, AMI continues to pay executives millions of dollars a year so ‘it ain’t broke yet,’” Wood said. “I also expect that AMI has insurance coverage applicable to claims of libel, especially since it is in the business of libel for profit.”
And while the dollar amount is extraordinary, Wood said it’s not about the money.
“To be clear, the McGraws’ primary motive in filing this lawsuit was taking the legal action available and necessary to force AMI to stop publishing lies about them, their marriage, their integrity and their professionalism,” said Wood. “If a byproduct of this litigation is the cessation of business by AMI and National Enquirer, a public service will have been performed as there is no value whatsoever in false speech. Perhaps another secondary impact of the litigation will be to serve as an example for other celebrities to follow when they, like the McGraws, reach the point where enough is enough and too much is too much.”