Tom Fetzer, the former mayor of Raleigh, N.C., filed a libel lawsuit late Monday afternoon against a Wilmington radio host who is accused of forwarding an e-mail insinuating that Fetzer is gay.
The suit comes in the middle of Fetzer's campaign against three other men to lead the state's Republican party, which will be decided at the state GOP convention June 12 - 14.
The suit seeks damages of $10,000 or more from Curtis Wright, the host of "The Morning Beat with Curtis Wright," as well as Sea-Comm, Inc., the corporate owner of WLTT, Curtis' employer. Wright could not be immediately reached.
Wright is accused of forwarding an email that included allegations that Fetzer is gay, though Wright is not thought to be the author of the anonymous email, according to the lawsuit.
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Fetzer, in the suit, accused Wright of concocting a smear campaign against Fetzer to thwart the former Raleigh mayor's attempt to lead the state Republican party. Curtis, Fetzer claims in the suit, has endorsed Marcus Kindley from Guilford County for the position.
The lawsuit never mentions the word gay nor does it specify the potentially libelous statements.
Fetzer and his attorneys wrote that Curtis spread rumors that "tend to charge Mr. Fetzer with a crime of offense involving moral turpitude, to charge Mr. Fetzer with dishonesty, to disgrace and degrade Mr. Fetzer, to hold Mr. Fetzer up to public ridicule and contempt, and to cause Mr. Fetzer to be avoided and shunned," the suit states.
But Fetzer may face legal hurdles in the lawsuit.
The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled in 1994 that falsely claiming someone is gay or bisexual is not libelous on its face.
Fetzer sent an email to supporters late last month announcing his plans to sue Wright and denying that he's gay.
"I am not gay -- never have been -- never will be," Fetzer wrote. "The fact that I'm 54 and single does not mean that I have to put up with vicious rumors that I'm gay. The fact that I am heterosexual is a matter of public record."
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