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Former Chicago Radio Co-Host's $10M Defamation Suit Dismissed

Patch 3/4/2022 Jeff Arnold
A judge dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit brought by the former co-host of Chicago radio personality Eric Ferguson on Friday. © Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images A judge dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit brought by the former co-host of Chicago radio personality Eric Ferguson on Friday.

CHICAGO — An Illinois District Court judge on Friday dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit by former Chicago radio host Melissa McGurren, who had filed suit against her former employer in connection with sexual harassment allegations against her former co-host on The Mix, Eric Ferguson.

In a four-page ruling issued by the United District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Ronald A. Guzman granted Hubbard Radio Chicago petition to dismiss the suit brought by McGurren. McGurren, who worked for the WTMX-FM for 22 years, alleged in the suit that the station defamed her in choosing not to side with her in her complaints of sexual harassment by Ferguson.

In the suit, McGurren said the station “falsely calls (her) a liar and attacks (her) integrity credibility” when it said in a statement that it did not “agree with” McGurren’s characterization of events in relation to Ferguson.

McGurren claimed in her filing that the station's management protected Ferguson for years by allowing him to "perpetuate his misconduct that goes far beyond the limits of decency." McGurren also accused Ferguson of grossly abusing his power and that his behavior created a hostile work environment.

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McGurren left the station in 2020 and alleged in the lawsuit that the station was intending to injure her and jeopardize her new career. McGurren currently works as a host at the country station, US99. At least four women have accused Ferguson of misconduct, which led the host of "Eric In the Morning" to leave the station last October.

The judge on Friday ruled that the station's statement regarding a complaint made by McGurren to the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission was an opinion and therefore did not constitute defamation. His ruling included three reasons why he was accepting the motion to dismiss by Hubbard.

Guzman also provided McGurren with a window of time to amend her complaint and gave Hubbard 14 days to respond to her amended filing.

The judge also found that Hubbard did not cross the line because its statement expressed an opinion regarding McGurren’s claim to the EEOC. In his ruling, Gomez cited the legal statute opinions that do not misstate facts are protected by the First Amendment and are non-actionable.

McGurren had argued that when the station owner made its statement, it knew that Ferguson was a “serial abuser of women” and that Hubbard knowingly published false information when it said it did not agree with her characterization of events. Guzman again, disagreed, saying that the statement was an opinion based on its position rather than a statement of facts.

"This far-reaching argument finds no support in the law," Guzman wrote in his decision.

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