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Fox sues, Franken frowns

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

NEW YORK Al Franken, the humorist being sued by Fox News Channel for use of the phrase ''fair and balanced,'' said Tuesday he doesn't mind the legal action.

But he does wish it hadn't happened during his vacation.

Fox sued the former ''Saturday Night Live'' performer and his publisher, the Penguin Group, to stop them from including ''fair and balanced'' in the title of his upcoming book.

Filed Monday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks to force Penguin to rename ''Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,'' scheduled for release next month. It also asks for unspecified damages.

Fox News registered ''Fair & Balanced'' as a trademark in 1995, the lawsuit said.

''I normally prefer not to be out of the country on vacation when I'm sued. However, from everything I know about law regarding satire, I'm not worried,'' Franken, who has not filed a response in court, said in a statement released Tuesday. He is vacationing in Italy.

Franken also thanked Fox ''for all the publicity.'' As of Tuesday night, ''Lies'' had reached No. 4 on the bestseller list of Amazon.com, one ranking ahead of the latest Harry Potter book.

In its court papers, Fox described the author and liberal commentator as ''neither a journalist nor a television news personality. He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight.''

Fox alleged that Franken was ''either intoxicated or deranged'' when he attacked the network and conservative host Bill O'Reilly at an April press correspondents dinner. The lawsuit also says that Franken has been described as ''increasingly unfunny.''

''As far as the personal attacks go,'' Franken responded, ''when I read 'intoxicated or deranged' and 'shrill and unstable' in their complaint, I thought for a moment I was a Fox commentator.

''And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word 'funny.' So when Fox calls me 'unfunny,' they're violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit.''



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