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WEIDER v. HOFFMAN

February 4, 1965

Joseph WEIDER and Mr. America Publishing Co., Inc., Plaintiffs,
v.
Robert C. HOFFMAN, also known as Bob Hoffman, individually and trading as Strength and Health Publishing Co., and York Barbell Company, Inc., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHERIDAN

These are motions by plaintiffs for a new trial on a verdict for defendants in a libel action, and by plaintiffs, defendants in the counterclaim, for judgment n.o.v. or for a new trial *fn1" on a verdict in favor of one of the defendants, Robert C. Hoffman, on his counterclaim for conspiracy.

Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship and the amount involved. Pennsylvania law is applicable. *fn2"

 Plaintiff, Joseph Weider, and defendant, Robert C. Hoffman, are each engaged in various enterprises dealing with physical culture and weight lifting. Hoffman owns 98 percent of the stock of defendant, York Barbell Company, Inc., a manufacturer of weight lifting and physical culture apparatus and supplies, which in turn owns defendant, Strength and Health Co. This publishing company publishes Strength & Health, a physical culture magazine which disseminates information concerning the weight lifting and physical culture field, and which advertises the products of defendant, York Barbell Company, and York Athletic Supply Company, not a party to this suit.

 Plaintiff, Joseph Weider, disseminates information concerning his interests through various magazines, one of which is Mr. America, published by plaintiff, Mr. America Publishing Co., Inc. Another is Muscle Builder, a magazine published by companies controlled by Weider.

 Plaintiffs' amended complaint, in four 'counts,' charged defendants with maliciously and libelously publishing certain statements in the June, September and November, 1958, issues of Strength & Health. The June, 1958 issue contained an editorial by Hoffman, 'Birds of a Feather'. In describing 'birds of a feather which flock together,' rats were described as associating with rats, skunks with skunks, jackals with jackals, and hyenas with hyenas. Referring to Weider, the editorial said: 'In our own wonderful sport, we have a small Hitler, a small Stalin, one who is a master of all the despicable tactics imaginable.' The editorial requests those who favor Weider to 'flock' to Weider, and those who favor Hoffman to 'flock' to Hoffman. It states that 'Experience has proved that the Big Lie technique does not sell magazines. Weider knows that people will read his magazines to see what new (or usually time-worn and oft repeated) diatribe he has to offer.' Weider is referred to as being money mad with a desire only to make money for himself. Readers are requested not to buy the Weider controlled magazines.

 In the September, 1958 issue, in the letter-to-the-editor column, were letters commenting on the above editorial. These include statements such as '* * * I would not wipe my nose on Weedy's rag * * *,' '* * * I'm glad you finally did something about Weider.', 'It might interest you to know that the character you mentioned in your editorial only gets talked about in our gym as an object for ridicule or as the butt of a joke.', and 'Until I read your article, I felt as though I was the only one that considered Weider one of Hitler's gang.'

 In the November, 1958 issue, an article 'Pal Joey,' contains an exaggerated account of Weider's muscular prowess, and derisive reference (according to plaintiff) to Weider's interest in the physical culture line for physical culture sake and not for the sake of money, with a background of Weider as the king in a medieval castle surrounded by subjects and serfs.

 Defendants denied the allegations of malicious libel and pleaded as affirmative defenses, truth, privilege or fair comment, consent, and other defenses which need not be detailed.

 The bases of the conspiracy were articles published in certain issues of Muscle Builder and Mr. America magazines.

 In the February, 1957 issue of Muscle Builder, an open letter to the chairman of the A.A.U. weight lifting committee by a weight lifter accused Hoffman of 'rigging' an A.A.U. sanctioned weight lifting contest and demanded that action be taken against Hoffman.

 In the December, 1957 issue of Muscle Builder, an article, 'People Who live in Glass Houses,' attributed to Hoffman a charge that four popular physique magazines, two of which -- Adonis and Body Beautiful -- are controlled by Weider, pander to homosexuals through publication of nude and semi-nude photographs of body builders. The article then states that many body builders, including Hoffman and others who work for Hoffman, have so posed, and that for many years the Hoffman controlled magazine published such pictures. The article is illustrated with uncomplimentary cartoon-type drawings and photographs of Hoffman.

 In the January, 1958 issue of Mr. America, an article, 'Bob Hoffman's Strange Finances,' accuses Hoffman of building up an image of philanthropy in his support of weight lifting, while doing so only for the purpose of making money. The article refers to details of an action against Hoffman for additional taxes based on various money-making schemes which Hoffman allegedly was able to put over under the guise of philanthropy in supporting the weight lifting sport and the A.A.U.'s participation therein. This article is also illustrated with an uncomplimentary cartoon-type drawing. The evidence showed that Weider directed the artist to depict Hoffman stealing money from the United States, and 'Uncle Sam' mad at Hoffman throwing the money around to women of ill repute who are wearing mink coats, driving cars, and serving drinks to drunks. Weider directed the artist to show Hoffman 'with bald head in shirtless sleves (sic), pot overlaping (sic) belt,' stating that Hoffman is the great American benefactor because he spent all his money being such. The artist substantially complied with these instructions.

 In the February, 1958 issue of Mr. America, in an article, 'Portrait Of A 'Medicine Man',' accompanied by an apparent editorial, 'Exposing Bob Hoffman, No. 2 of A Series' and 'Give It To Us Straight,' there are similar attacks on Hoffman's philanthropy, the income tax action is mentioned, Hoffman is described as a bully, the Hoffman products are ridiculed, and a large part of the article is devoted to Hoffman's alleged preoccupation with sex. This article is also illustrated by uncomplimentary cartoon-type drawings.


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