The Walton group, which is the largest landowner in Jackson and Barrow counties, has again threatened to sue Mainstreet Newspapers over a newspaper article.
This time, however, the threatened suit came before any article about Walton has been written or published.
In a letter dated July 14, Walton’s attorney John Fleming wrote to MSN co-publisher Mike Buffington and Commerce News editor Mark Beardsley that:
“… Main Street News and Commerce News Today are fully on notice of the inaccuracies of characterizing Walton’s operations as a ‘Ponzi scheme’ or suggesting that there is any guaranteed rate of return from Walton. Your publications are also on notice of the substantial damage publication of such defamatory inaccuracies could cause.”
The letter goes on to state: “If there is criticism, we must insist that it be factually accurate. If it is not, Walton of course will need to consider its options…”
(The full letter is shown below.)
The lawsuit threat came after Beardsley interviewed several Walton representatives about the firm’s holdings in Jackson County. However, no story has been written or published by Beardsley about the firm.
“We’ve been threatened with lawsuits for articles we have published, but never for an article we haven’t even written yet,” said Beardsley.
The letter is an apparent effort to have the newspaper back off its story about Walton.
“If the thin-skinned executives at Walton think they can browbeat us into not publishing a news story, or stop us from commenting about their company, they are seriously mistaken,” said Buffington. “It’s nothing more than an attempt to intimidate a small town newspaper.”
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