Former D.C. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Vincent Orange’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Business Journal and its former reporter was dismissed by a superior court judge last week.
Orange, a former D.C. Council member from 2011 to 2016 (at-large) and 1999 to 2007 (Ward 5), filed a lawsuit in March 2022, alleging that the publication and reporter Alex Koma published “defamatory falsehoods, made ‘with knowledge of its falsity and/or reckless disregard for the truth,'” according to court documents obtained by Washington City Paper, where Koma is currently a columnist.
Last Thursday, Superior Court Judge Heidi Pasichow granted Koma’s and the publication’s request to dismiss the case, saying in her decision that Orange has not proven his claims that he was defamed or that the defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
Pasichow said that Washington Business Journal and Koma met their burden under D.C.’s Anti-SLAPP Act, which is construed broadly and protects expression in connection with “an issue of public interest.”
During a motions hearing last week, Orange brought up three articles written between February 2020 and March 2021, which he believed to be defamatory.
Orange said during the motions hearing that he does not contest any of the underlying statistics and facts upon which the article is based, but there were “defamatory statements” in the reporting that did not “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
These statements, which appeared in a Feb. 12, 2020 article, include the phrases “rocky financial footing,” “persistent slide in the last several years” and “has seen many of its financial fortunes decline in the last few years.”
Orange also challenged a statement in the article that said he resigned from the D.C. Council “under pressure from ethics groups.”
The Washington Business Journal and Koma, court documents said, pointed to Orange’s colleagues in the council, the D.C. attorney general, a watchdog group, the editorial board of The Washington Post and the editor-in-chief of Washington Business Journal, which all called for Orange’s resignation when he became president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Orange left his post as head of the chamber in 2020. He ran in a crowded race for the at-large council seat being vacated by David Grosso that year, which was won by Christina Henderson.