Nashville's Cumberland House Publishing is facing a lawsuit from an author described in the legal filing as a "respected factual reporter of the Islamofascist terrorist threat to the United States."
Pennsylvania writer Paul L. Williams has sued after the local publisher backed away from his claims, made in a book it had brought out last year, that terrorists bent on carrying out an "American Hiroshima" have stolen 180 pounds of nuclear material from a Canadian university.
McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, has sued Williams for libel, seeking the equivalent of $1.9 million in damages. The dispute arose last year after the publication of Williams' book The Dunces of Doomsday: 10 Blunders That Gave Rise to Radical Islam, Terrorist Regimes, and the Threat of an American Hiroshima.
The book asserts that McMaster, which has a number of faculty members of Egyptian origin, was so lax in its security procedures that it let members of Al Qaeda enroll under fictitious names and carry off radioactive material from a university facility that housed a five-megawatt nuclear research reactor. A lawyer for the school said the claims are "on a par with UFO reports and JFK conspiracy theories," and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has termed them "false."
Cumberland House soon retreated from the book's assertions, issuing a statement that described the statements about McMaster as "without basis in fact" and "unreservedly" retracted them, while apologizing to McMaster. Initially, according to Williams' complaint, the publisher's statement said Williams himself also retracted the claims and was sorry for them, even though he did not share in the publisher's view of the matter.
Williams filed suit in Davidson County Circuit Court last week. A copy of his claim is available at this link. He says Cumberland House exposed him to the Canadian libel charge by selling the book in a country where "journalistic standards" differ from those in the U.S. The lawsuit argues that Canadian legal standards for defamation "unfavorably shift burdens of proof and procedurally penalize the defense of truth." The lawsuit does not state whether Cumberland House retained legal counsel in the U.S. or Canada to review Williams' manuscript for possible libel issues, as major publishers typically do.
Williams says Cumberland House went on to defame him by issuing the retraction and apology. He claims the controversy has harmed sales of The Dunces of Doomsday and will make it hard for him to find publishers for future works. He seeks an unspecified amount in damages. James L. Harris of Nashville is representing Williams in the case, along with an attorney from Ohio.
In comments to the Canadian press about McMaster's case against him, Williams has been defiant. "I love them coming after us," he told the National Post in April. "At the end of the day, these people are going to be bloodied because what I am saying is true. They are not going to walk away from this unscathed because I will proclaim what is going on at McMaster from the rooftops."
Williams' latest work, published in May 2007, is entitled The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World. Among his earlier books is The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder, and the Mafia, which depicts Pope John Paul I as a would-be reformer and claims the pontiff's death, one month into his reign in 1978, was actually a murder.
Cumberland House published The Dunces of Doomsday under the imprint of WND Books, an extension of the WorldNet Daily website. WorldNet Daily has made a name for itself by airing controversial assertions by its conservative columnists. One column last year postulated that children who eat soy products have an increased chance of being gay. Another suggested that KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London last year after being poisoned with polonium 210, was actually a convert to Islam who may have been smuggling the radioactive material for terrorist purposes.
The Nashville publisher teamed up with WND in 2005 "to bring news-driven topics into a medium where the truth has finally found a platform," as Cumberland House founder Ron Pitkin put it at the time. Along with the Williams book, the partnership has produced such other titles as In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security by Congressman Tom Tancredo and Terri's Story: The Court-Ordered Death of An American Woman, a book about the Terri Schiavo controversy of 2005.
Late last year, WorldNet Daily announced it would change to an affiliation with a different publisher.
Pitkin, who had been a co-founder of Nashville's Rutledge Hill Press, created Cumberland House in 1996. Reached by telephone last week, he said he had not yet seen the lawsuit by Williams. Pitkin has had no comment since NashvillePost.com furnished a copy of the complaint to him.