David Simon accuses author of libel over Huffington Post story

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David Simon. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello/file)
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Jeremy Barr

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David Simon, the sharp-tongued co-creator of the HBO show "The Wire," denied that he was once fired from his job as a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun, as suggested in a forthcoming book on the show and repeated in a Wednesday blog post by its author on The Huffington Post.

In a teaser for her new book, On The Wire, University of California, Berkeley, professor Linda Williams wrote of Simon having "his sweet revenge on the bosses who once fired him from the Baltimore Sun for not himself producing more facile, 'Dickensian' stories."

Simon, who wrote for the Sun from 1982 to 1995, said in a post on his website that he left voluntarily, by way of a buyout—and that his departure had nothing to do with editorial objections to his work or an ethical breach on his part. Simon said that he informed Williams and her publisher, Duke University Press, of the error after reviewing a galley copy of the book, which, as he wrote, contained nonspecific hints at some kind of ethical error on his part.

"I don’t know how else to say this: There was no ethical breach," he wrote. "No lapse in any ethical standard of journalism was ever suggested or referenced in any of my work, even by those editors with whom I had deep and fundamental disagreements over the direction and priorities of the newspaper. ... It. Just. Did. Not. Happen."

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While he said that the manuscript might have been amended, Williams repeated similar themes in the Huffington Post item.

"Being fired from any job certainly implies cause," Simon wrote. "It is defamatory on its face. And when a writer is informed in advance of the facts and chooses to publish such a claim regardless, it meets the definition for libel, and actionable libel even of a public person."

Simon attempted to get The Huffington Post to correct Williams' story, but said that he hasn't heard back.

A Huffington Post spokesperson told Capital on Thursday that individual bloggers are responsible for the veracity of their own stories on the site.

"While The Huffington Post offers a platform for bloggers to post their thoughts, opinions, and commentary, we don’t control what the more than 70,000 independent bloggers across the globe who have taken advantage of our platform write," the spokesperson said.

"Our blogger terms stipulate that they submit their work to us in good faith and, if issues such as factual inaccuracies arise, these bloggers are expected to address these immediately."

Williams has not responded to Capital's request for comment.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post added the following correction to Williams' story on Friday: "This post stated incorrectly that David Simon was fired from The Baltimore Sun. The author apologizes to Mr. Simon for the error."