Education

Pro-Abortion Professor Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Notre Dame’s Conservative Campus Paper

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James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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A liberal professor has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Irish Rover, a Catholic conservative publication at the University of Notre Dame, the Daily Caller has learned.

Notre Dame Professor of Global Affairs and Sociology Tamara Kay filed a defamation lawsuit on May 22 alleging that two Irish Rover articles made “false and defamatory statements” about her. The Irish Rover is filing an Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss Kay’s defamation lawsuit. (RELATED: Notre Dame Invites Gay Priest For ‘Queer Holiness’ Event)

SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” and the term is used to describe frivolous lawsuits filed with the intention of silencing critics.

“I am not at all worried about the result of the lawsuit. I know that everything we published is true and written in good faith, so I firmly believe that the law suit can only be decided in favor of the Irish Rover,” former Rover editor Joseph DeRuil, who authored one of the articles cited in the lawsuit, told the Daily Caller.

“We decided to file an anti-SLAPP motion because we believe that there is no merit to any of Professor Kay’s claims, so we hope to put this lawsuit behind us as quickly as possible in order to reestablish our focus on promoting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.”

Kay objected to articles published by the Irish Rover on Oct. 12, 2022, and March 22, 2023, about her promotion of abortion access in defiance of the Catholic school’s opposition to abortion.

DeRuil’s October report covered Kay’s public tweets about abortion and her on-campus office poster, both of which promoted abortion resources for students. In the March 2023 article, Rover reporter Luke Thompson covered statements Kay made about her abortion advocacy during a meeting with Notre Dame‘s College Democrats.

Kay’s defamation lawsuit alleges that the Notre Dame students reported falsehoods about her abortion poster and falsely attributed statements to her in order to portray her negatively. She also claims her safety was threatened by the Irish Rover’s articles.

READ THE FULL LAWSUIT:

“As a result of the defamatory and false statements made about Dr. Kay by the Defendant, she has been harassed, threatened and experienced damage to her residential property. She has also suffered mentally and emotionally and experienced and continues to experience mental anguish and fear for her safety,” a copy of her lawsuit reads. She does not present evidence of harassment or threats to her physical safety.

Her lawsuit claims that the March 2023 article misrepresented her abortion poster based on its assertion that she was “posting offers to procure abortion pills on her office door.”

Kay says her office door actually stated “This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access—confidentially with care and compassion.”

The Oct. 2022 article accurately quotes the text of her office poster and includes a picture of it. The Rover story also referred to alleged since-deleted tweets in which Kay shared the URL of a website that offers abortion pills by mail and said she would “help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost.”

Kay’s lawsuit claims a recording of the College Democrats meeting shows she was falsely quoted by the Rover in the March article. The Daily Caller obtained the recording, which shows that although the Rover’s quotations contain minor inaccuracies, they do not distort the substance of her comments.

“Another student asked how Kay—as someone who supports abortion—ended up at Notre Dame, a Catholic university that ‘recognizes and upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death,’ as stated by President [Fr. John] Jenkins in Notre Dame’s Institutional Statement Supporting the Choice for Life,” the Rover story reads. The clauses referring to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and view of abortion appear to be Thompson’s own commentary rather than a paraphrase of the question.

According to the lawsuit, “[t]his question, in fact, was never asked and a recording of the comments conclusively establishes that this exchange never occurred.”

In the recording, a questioner can be heard making the following query: “I’m curious how you ended up here and possibly like, [if you’ll] go into it, how your research and how your experiences and beliefs affected you coming here if that was a positive thing or something you had to think about and [inaudible]?”

The previous question was about Kay’s stance on abortion restrictions with exceptions for rape, incest and maternal health.

Screenshot of tweets from Dr. Tamara Kay.

Screenshot of tweets from Dr. Tamara Kay.

Kay gave a lengthy response, which included close approximations of several quotes attributed to her in the Rover story. For example, the Rover quotes her as saying “[f]or me, being Catholic means … that you do the right thing even when it’s difficult. …Because if I don’t, who will?” while according to the audio file, she appears to say, “[f]or me, being Catholic, what my Catholicism means, actually, is that you do the right thing even when it — even when you get — I mean, I’ve gotten so many death and rape threats I can’t even count. So even when you get the abuse and harassment, you do have to do the right thing. So that’s what it means to — really in a profound way, and it’s not been easy — but if I don’t, who will?”

The lawsuit also alleges that Kay never made two other statements that were attributed to her in the March article. In response to a question about how students can engage in pro-abortion activism, the article quotes her as saying, “if you have that academic freedom, you should use it” and “I can’t impose that on you … but I’m doing me, and you should do you.”

Neither quote exactly reproduces what Kay can be heard saying in the recording, but neither differs significantly from what she actually said.

Kay’s first statement, with additional context, runs as follows: “I think Jenkins’ statement [distancing Notre Dame from her pro-abortion views], basically — I was surprised. It actually suggested that students also had academic freedom. So that was — I mean, I think that’s — that was something I was quite tickled by. And, you know, so — if you have it!”

In the second statement, again with additional context, she said, “Well, I mean, you know, this is the hard thing is that you have to really be fully committed to activism to be able to stick your neck out like I am, right? Because I can’t impose that or say you should, you know, you have to do what you have to do. And I think what I’ve come to is I’m doing me and other folks can do that.”

Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune in Dec. 2022 disavowing a pro-abortion op-ed that Kay and another Notre Dame professor published in the same paper, according to campus publication The Observer.

The University of Notre Dame did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.