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Monday, March 04, 2024

Former UF department chair loses defamation case against The New York Times

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled in favor of the The New York Times Wednesday in a defamation suit filed by a UF professor.

Kevin Folta, former UF horticultural sciences department chairman, filed the defamation suit for an article he appeared in from 2015, according to court records.

The article by Eric Lipton, later a defendant in the case, focused on the impact and the relationships of biotechnology and organics companies with public university academics, according to court records.

In the article, Lipton uses Folta’s emails from his UF account, which are public records. The emails showed communication between Folta and representatives from Monsanto, the world’s largest corporate seed company. They detail agreements to promote Monsanto’s products.

Folta contested his emails’ use in the case, but the court ruled they could be used, according to the record.

Folta was previously the department chairman, but he resigned from his position in May 2018 after receiving death threats from activist groups, according to a report from The Alligator.

Folta denied comment at this time.

Mark Caramanica, a lawyer for The New York Times, wrote in an email the Times was pleased with the court’s decision.

“This is a case that should have never been brought over an important story based on Dr. Folta’s own communications that shed light on public academics’ relationships with the food industry,” he said.

Correction: Kevin Folta resigned as department chairman. The Alligator previously reported otherwise.
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