Pastor James' defamation suit finally a response to Mancow's allegations against him

  • Former Harvest Bible Church pastor James MacDonald, left, and Mancow Muller at a men's retreat in Michigan during happier times.

    Former Harvest Bible Church pastor James MacDonald, left, and Mancow Muller at a men's retreat in Michigan during happier times. courtesy of Mancow Muller

 
 
Updated 12/16/2019 7:47 PM

For 10 months, former Harvest Bible Chapel senior pastor James MacDonald has said almost nothing about the controversy that has swirled around him.

But a defamation lawsuit he filed Thursday against WLS-AM radio show host Mancow Muller speaks volumes about what he thinks of what Muller, a former friend, has said about him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And it shows that he thinks the radio station that put him back on the air in Chicago should have known better than to give Muller a microphone to do so.

The lawsuit

The 18-count lawsuit was filed in Cook County. It accuses Muller of defamation, citing what was said in broadcasts, a show podcast and Muller's own podcast in mid-February.

Cumulus Media Inc., owners of WLS-AM 890, also is accused of defamation in connection with Muller's show and the station's podcast of the show. Five John Does are sued in connection with Muller's podcast.

Muller, his agent and church leaders could not be reached for comment on this story.

Throughout the lawsuit, MacDonald claims that Muller fabricated the bad acts of which he spoke. The lawsuit says that on Feb. 12 Muller questioned whether a racketeering case could be made against MacDonald, that there were "all kinds of secret books and black ops," that MacDonald was a con man and that MacDonald planned to put child pornography on Muller's computer to get him to shut up.

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On Feb. 18, a guest on the show said that while flying on a mission trip she took with MacDonald, the pastor put his head on her shoulder and one of his hands near her crotch. Muller repeated the allegation on the show and his podcast.

Muller is also accused of illegally eavesdropping on a private conversation MacDonald had with four people by airing the contents of a telephone call that was recorded without MacDonald's knowledge in a recording studio at Harvest's Elgin campus.

The recording, which was leaked to Muller, included MacDonald making derogatory comments about the editors of Christianity Today and of writer Julie Roys, one of his critics. He also talked about whether child pornography could be put on the computer of a Christianity Today editor.

The suit claims this was a breach of MacDonald's privacy rights.

Harvest fired MacDonald from the megachurch he founded in 1988 in Rolling Meadows about the same time Muller aired the recording.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Should have known?

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages. MacDonald's attorney, Philip Zisook, said he is not required to list specific damages, because the statements are so harmful it is reasonable for a jury to assume they caused MacDonald economic hurt and, therefore, it is up to the jury to determine the amount.

If Zisook can prove Muller acted maliciously, the jury could also award punitive damages.

Zisook is building his case against Cumulus by pointing out Muller's history of being sued for defamation. He claims Cumulus has engaged in reckless supervision, negligent supervision, and reckless hiring and retention, saying the company should have known Muller posed "a danger" of defaming people.

Cumulus Vice President Marv Nyren had fired Muller from another station and rehired him last year for WLS.

Zisook is the attorney who in 1995 represented former Chicago Bear Keith Van Horne in one of those defamation lawsuits, which was settled out of court for $1.6 million.

In 1999, Janet Dahl, the wife of radio show host Steve Dahl, also sued Muller. That case was settled privately.

Last year, MacDonald and Harvest sued Roys and two bloggers over what they were writing about him and Harvest. But when a court ruled that the defendants could publish documents they received as a result of subpoenas, the church dropped the suit.

Reaction to the suits

While many people on social media roundly condemn James, his recent Facebook post that revealed plans to resume preaching and teaching in 2020 received 2,065 likes or loves.

"Mancow is a great guy with a good heart! He did thousands a great service by exposing MacDonald ..." wrote one commenter.

On Twitter, MacDonald's critics talked about looking forward to seeing what witnesses they want called if the case goes to trial.

Still, comments on Daily Herald media blogger Robert Feder's posting Sunday and Monday criticized both men.

"Pot ... Kettle ... meet Mr. Black," one read.

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