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In the past couple of days, we have received inquiries about a threat of litigation by Redskins owner Dan Snyder relating to a Nov. 19, 2010 article, “The Cranky Redskin Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” by columnist Dave McKenna. While we did not hear directly from Snyder, Redskins General Counsel David Donovan complained about that article and others in a letter to Atalaya Capital Management, an investment company that owns Creative Loafing, Inc., the parent company of Washington City Paper.

After identifying certain items that Snyder contends were incorrect, the letter to Atalaya accused City Paper and McKenna of “character assassination” and stated that Snyder was considering all of his options, including litigation. “Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation…. We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper,” the letter read.

Atalaya responded on its behalf and then referred Donovan’s letter to us, since the investment fund owners are not involved in the news we publish or our editorial decision making. We reviewed the complaints carefully, as we would with a suggestion by anyone that we had gotten something wrong. We believe we have the facts right.

Nevertheless, we have offered Snyder the opportunity to publish a guest column responding to the article, we proposed that he meet with our editor to discuss his concerns, and we invited him to provide information demonstrating that what we published was false. If we were to conclude we got something wrong, we would correct it. We also emphatically reject the suggestion that we stop reporting on Snyder or that we pull McKenna, who has written for City Paper since 1986, from reporting on Snyder and/or the Redskins.

The only response to our offer was a letter earlier this week from Patty Glaser, a prominent Hollywood lawyer, demanding that certain documents be retained for litigation. We have referred that letter to our longtime media counsel, Seth Berlin, at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz. Although we had not reported on this while waiting for a response from Snyder, we do so now.

It’s extremely unfortunate that Snyder believes that it is appropriate to threaten City Paper with litigation because he objects to our coverage. As a 30-year old newspaper and vibrant website committed to both in-depth news reporting and full-throated commentary, we do not believe that using the court system to stifle or chill free speech is ever appropriate. In this case, it’s especially shabby: As a well known public figure, Snyder has more than ample ability and resources to respond to coverage he does not like, including through his significant public relations apparatus. Lest there be any doubt, we have offered him a forum to do so in our pages, and that invitation stands. Should he elect to actually file a lawsuit, we have directed our counsel to defend the case vigorously.

Amy Austin is publisher of Washington City Paper.

Full text of all three letters is below:

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