Wardlaw v. Peck (1984)

A 1984 slander case involved a children’s book author, Robert Peck, who was set to speak at a college convocation. The student who was supposed to pick him up from the airport, Mary Jo Wardlaw, failed to do so, and Peck was so perturbed by this that he continuously picked on her during his speech the next day, referring to her as “Mary Jo Warthog”, likening her to a character in his book that was “built like a garbage truck”, claiming she had an “ape-like walk” (which he demonstrated for the audience) and that’s why she was late to pick him up. He even went so far as to claim he had nightmares of her and another student “breeding under his sink.”

Understandably, Wardlaw was upset. She claims she spent the next day locked in her room embarassed and distressed. She sued him on two charges, one for slander per se, by calling her “Warthog” and ruining her reputation. The other was for the “breeding under his sink” comment.

The reputation claim was thrown out, because there was no strong evidence that the words were slanderous or caused her harm. But the second charge was upheld because women can win claims for unchastity, which is apparently what “breeding under his sink” implies.

Peck must be a very good children’s book author, considering his extensive creativity and imagination, along with his childish nature.

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