The Stupid Attempt to Sue Gen. John Sheehan for Slander

It would be stupid, albeit hilarious to see Gen. John Sheehan, the former NATO commander, sued under defamation laws for his remarks about how the gays led to a massacre.

In the United States, Sheehan’s comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee are protected under general defamation immunity offered to anyone testifying in an official capacity. (That’s why courtroom witnesses cannot be charged with slander, even if they accuse a defendant of being a crack-smoking child molester, and the defendant is not.) It’s an effort to encourage witnesses to speak freely and honestly without fear for later being prosecuted just for speaking openly, particularly when that testimony is forced, via subpoena.

And yet Peter Schouten, described as a “Dutch communications expert,” thinks he’s got the upper hand. He’s founded something called Pink Army, and is on the hunt for nine gay Dutch soldiers to act as plaintiffs in a class action suit, to be filed in a California federal court, charging Sheehan with slander.

The charges would be slander and defamation, and the demands are simple: a full-page retraction and apology in major US and Dutch newspapers; a press conference offering the same; mandatory sensitivity training, and compensation of legal costs.

Mr Schouten says it is too soon to say how the case will be argued, but given [Dutch army commander Henk van den Breemen, who Sheehan cited] public denial that he made the alleged initial remarks, it’s clear Mr Sheehan lied.

Which, if true, means Sheehan lied under oath. That is a charge of perjury, a criminal and not a civil allegation, and thus up to an office like the United States District Attorney to deal with. But he cannot be accused of slandering anyone, because of where his remarks took place.

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  • romeo

    I totally don’t get the distinction with lying about someone under oath and it being protected, but lying about someone also isn’t protected because it’s perjury.

    Perjury is perjury, isn’t it?

  • terrwill

    Regardless, I hope they drag this lying scumbag thru years of bank account draining litigation. Let rue the day he ever opened his vile mouth and let him be an example that others may see that when you spew hateful vile lies there are consequences to pay…………….

  • Cam

    Fine, drag him into court, make him hire and attorney, and when it turns out he can’t produce the evidence to back up what he said, then everybody will see that he is a liar. I’m fine with it.

  • romeo

    The Netherlands might just do it — in an EU court. Sheehan must be an idiot to make that accusation casually, considering how sensitive that situation was, against one of our allies. Thanks to what Murdoch did to this country, lies have no consequences in America anymore, but they do in the civilized world.

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    I agree with all of you; come on Queerty, where is your sense of fun and adventure?

    So what if the case is lacking on a legal basis; certainly there is sufficient information to force litigation. AND THAT IN OF ITSELF IS POWERFUL.

    Just like high schools and school district around the country now will take pause, because of the efforts of Constance McMillen, before engaging in homophobic discrimination, and cost their respective schools’ and districts’ money they do not have to waste on litigation, suing this asshole retired general will make future homophobic bigoted asshole generals to keep their fucking asshole mouths shut.

    I hope that general shithead wastes all of his military pension fighting litigation til the end of his bigoted days.

    And regarding the legal position: European laws regarding freedom of speech are different than ours; there may be a case under the laws of the Netherlands; and many times it takes a civil action to force a criminal action (should there be a case of perjury). Typically, witnesses at Congressional hearing are not put under oath; does anyone know whether general shithead was?

  • romeo

    Actually, I don’t think they are under oath at those hearings. It’s not like a trial in a court. However, if he lied about what the Dutch army commander said, then it becomes slander, especially in such a formal setting. I think the Dutch have a case.

  • Hyhybt

    @romeo: Yes, perjury is perjury; the point (if I understood rightly) is that the same event cannot be both.

  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    Interestingly, if the Dutch military was really mad-enuff they could pressure the USDoD to have him court martialed for slander and perjury. Retired general-grade officers are still commissioned-officers and their conduct, even when retired, is technically still subject to the UCMJ. Retired general-grade officers have been court-martialed in the past resulting in being reduced-in-grade, which affects their pensions and military courtesies-due.

    And he’s still subject to a potential perjury prosecution if a member of Congress files charges against him for his testimony.

  • RomanHans

    Here’s the point: If you’re under oath and you call somebody an idiot, you can’t be sued for slander. Queerty is assuming Gen. Sheehan was under oath when he made his remarks, which means he can’t be sued for slander. If he lied, however, he can be arrested for perjury.

    He won’t be, of course, because the evidence isn’t strong enough.

    Me, I’m not convinced he was under oath. These commissions ask people their opinions: they’re hardly going to make them swear to God they’re correct. In which case, good luck, boys, and sue the bastard to Kingdom Come!

  • Michael

    @RomanHans: The evidence isn’t strong enough? He told Congress a Dutch military leader said gays were partly responsible and that military leader says it’s a complete lie. How much stronger does it have to be? He based his whole “homosexuals were the downfall of the Dutch army” based on this lie. However, I do not know if that would qualify as “evidence”.

    btw, I’m just appalled this general could so easily lie to Congress and, as it appears to be, get away with it. He knew he was lying and it’s complete bullshite.

  • B

    No. 10 · Michael wrote, “@RomanHans: The evidence isn’t strong enough? He told Congress a Dutch military leader said gays were partly responsible and that military leader says it’s a complete lie.”

    … the problem is that perjury refers to lying under oath, not being mistaken under oath. There have been psychological experiments in which a murder was staged (by actors – no one was actually hurt) and witnesses would make all sorts of mistakes, in some cases identifying the wrong person as the murderer. That sort of mistake is not perjury. To be perjury, the “mistake” would have had to have been made on purpose.

  • JANdeWIT

    Is it stupid to drag this scumbag for a US court in order to defend himself for blaming gays for the massacre of 7000 unarmed man?
    Or is it stupid to think it’s only important who wins or loses in court.
    Is the typical arrogant American way you presented this story stupid?
    Are you stupid yourself?

    See this story on drasties – Dutch on the World. World on the Dutch.
    Dutch fought Spain, Britain, Sweden, Prussia, Portugal, France
    Take care – JANdeWIT.

  • Cam

    No. 11 · B
    No. 10 · Michael wrote, “@RomanHans: The evidence isn’t strong enough? He told Congress a Dutch military leader said gays were partly responsible and that military leader says it’s a complete lie.”

    … the problem is that perjury refers to lying under oath, not being mistaken under oath.


    Being mistaken means you got 500 soldiers mixed up with 5000 soldiers. Stating that you were directly told that a battle was lost because of gays when it did not happen is not a mistake, it is a lie. The dutch have to sue him because he put them in a position of having to defend their military against their own citisens. They have to strongly go after him to prove that their officials did NOT make that statement.

  • Alex

    12 – concur….

    I don’t think the author of the article realises how angry everybody is in the Netherlands – unlike you we don-t getto-ize ourselves. Have you ever been in Europe? Perhaps you should consider getting an European Affairs editor who has actually left your great country.

  • CHIP1218

    Let the Dutch sue him in EU court and get him banned from the Eurozone and a warrant for his arrest. Then when he leaves the US for a consulting gig, most countries would possibly detain him and ship him to the EU for trial. Put him in a jail cell with all the Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian war criminals he thinks only were able to do their evil deeds because a gay or two was serving as a peacekeeper…

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