Last April, two tribesmen from Papua New Guinea sued Jared Diamond, the well-known biologist and author, for $10 million in damages, claiming that he had defamed them in an April 2008 article in The New Yorker titled “Vengeance Is Ours.” The article described a revenge war that supposedly began when a pig dug up someone’s garden, and went on for 3 years, resulting in the deaths of 29 people. The plaintiffs, Daniel Wemp and Isum Mandingo—who included The New Yorker’s owner, Advance Publications Inc., as a codefendant in the suit—alleged that Diamond’s account of the tribal war, in which they were allegedly involved, contained numerous errors, harmed their reputations, and endangered the life of Wemp, who was described as organizing the war in Diamond’s article.
Today Yesterday, attorneys for Diamond and Advance Publications filed their answer to the lawsuit in New York state court, denying all of the allegations. The defendants’ attorneys listed 34 reasons, called “affirmative defenses,” why they should prevail in the lawsuit. Among them are the contentions that the plaintiffs were not defamed and had not suffered any harm or actual injury to their reputations; that Diamond and The New Yorker had not acted with “actual malice” or with knowledge that The New Yorker story was false; that the article was “substantially true” and thus protected under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; and that to the extent to which the plaintiffs did suffer any harm or damages, “it is the result of their own actions.”
No trial date has been set.