Aug. 24, 2003: Fair and Balanced? That Could Get Me Sued!

Even a casual reader of this space knows I am the poster person for fair and balanced opinions. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear someone say, “That’s Dick Yarbrough. He writes those fair and balanced newspaper columns.” I try to look modest, but we all know it is the truth. Now I learn that I may be in violation of the U.S. trademark laws. My attorneys tell me that messing around with somebody else’s trademark is serious stuff. It could land me in the pokey for an extended period of time and even cause me to miss the Georgia-Auburn game.

Ignorance of the law is no defense, but how was I to know that “fair and balanced” was registered as a trademark by Fox News Channel back in 1995? Not only am I in trouble, but even worse, I find myself in the same boat as loopy liberal and unfunny comedian Al Franken.

Fox News recently asked for an injunction against Franken for his use of the phrase “fair and balanced” in the title of his upcoming book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” A judge, who I assume was fair and balanced, denied Fox’s request and cited a little detail called the First Amendment. The network has dropped their suit, so the only tangible result of their bonehead actions so far has been to make Franken a media celebrity and his book a best seller. Way to go, guys.

Don’t assume for a moment, however, that Fox has given up on defending their trademark. The big question for me is how can I remain fair and balanced without getting the Fox legal beagles on my case? There is always an outside chance that the network may not come after me since nobody at Fox News even knows I exist. Still, I am not taking any chances. I need desperately to find an example of something I may have said that didn’t seem fair and balanced. That is where you come in.

If you would go back through your scrapbooks of my columns and see if you can come up with anything that might be construed as not being fair and balanced, it would strengthen my case considerably. My attorneys then could point out to Fox that while on a couple of rare occasions I was fair, most of the time I have been seriously unbalanced and, therefore, represent no threat to the network. Admittedly, the case is going to be difficult to prove, but you are my only hope.

Specifically, I would like to appeal to Georgia Tech supporters. Engineers, in addition to being good at driving trains, are very precise. I can’t recall any derogatory statements I have made about the runners-up in the 2002 State Football Championship (final score: 216-3), but I’ll bet they would.

Maybe self-important yuppie-boomers, racing around in their status-symbol SUVs and pickup trucks and needlessly wasting fuel, which is as blatantly unpatriotic as it is arrogant, could put down their cell phones long enough to let me know if I was ever unfair to them.

I would welcome help from the flaggers, too, if they could spare a moment from their efforts to return us to the 19th century. Just a quick note to say, “Hey, Dick, we aren’t absolutely positive, but we think you may not have always been fair and balanced in your comments about how we live in the past. Plus, you are always reminding people that we came in second in a two-nation war.”

Even Dr. Howard Dean’s zealots might be willing to search their files for anything insensitive I may have directed at their hero, the former governor of the People’s Republic of Vermont. On second thought, that would be a waste of time. I am positive that I have had only good things to say about Dr. Strangelove.

Of course, you don’t have to help me, but unless we make a compelling argument with the Fox News brass, I could be history. Then you would be stuck with the blathering of energetic idiots like Al Franken. In my you-know-what and you-know-what opinion, I don’t think you want that to happen.