From the Chicago Tribune…
Best-seller leads scholar to file lawsuit
Defamation allegation targets U. of C. author
By Michael Higgins
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 11, 2006
A scholar known for his work on guns and crime filed a defamation lawsuit Monday against University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the best-seller “Freakonomics.”
John Lott Jr. of Virginia, a former U. of C. visiting professor, alleges that Levitt defamed him in the book by claiming that other scholars had tried and failed to confirm Lott’s conclusion that allowing people to carry concealed weapons reduces crime. Publishers Weekly ranked “Freakonomics” eighth this week for non-fiction hardcover books.
According to Levitt’s book: “When other scholars have tried to replicate [Lott’s] results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime.”
But according to Lott’s lawsuit: “In fact, every time that an economist or other researcher has replicated Lott’s research, he or she has confirmed Lott’s conclusion.”
By suggesting that Lott’s results could not be replicated, Levitt is “alleging that Lott falsified his results,” the lawsuit says.
Lott is seeking a court order to block further sales of “Freakonomics” until the offending statements are retracted and changed. He is also seeking unspecified money damages.
Lott acknowledged in the suit that some scholars have disagreed with his conclusions. But he said those researchers used “different data or methods to analyze the relationship between gun-control laws and crime” and made no attempt to “replicate” Lott’s work.
The lawsuit alleges that Levitt and his publisher, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., made the statements with reckless disregard for whether they were true and that the book damaged Lott’s reputation.
Neither Levitt nor HarperCollins officials could be reached Monday.
According to the lawsuit, Levitt also defamed Lott in an e-mail that Levitt sent to an economist in Texas last May. The e-mail described work that Lott published in an academic journal in 2001. It falsely stated that Lott’s work had not been peer-reviewed and that Lott had blocked scholars with opposing views from appearing in the same issue of the journal, the lawsuit said.
Lott’s books include “More Guns, Less Crime: Analyzing Crime and Gun Control Laws,” published in 1998. Levitt won the John Bates Clark Medal for economists younger than 40 from the American Economic Association in 2003.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo.