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Student vindicated in defamation suit brought by pro-choice Notre Dame professor says truth 'worth defending'

The student journalist at the center of a defamation lawsuit brought by a pro-choice Notre Dame professor at spoke with Fox News Digital about his recent legal vindication.

Two student journalists at the University of Notre Dame celebrated a legal win Monday in a defamation case brought against their independent, conservative newspaper by a professor who claimed they had misrepresented her abortion activism.

Tamara Kay, a sociology and global affairs professor, sued the Irish Rover in May over two of its articles that she said contained "false and defamatory information," according to a copy of the complaint reviewed by Fox News Digital. The complaint specifically named the editor-in-chief at the time, W. Joseph DeReuil, who spoke to Fox News Digital, as well as a student journalist, Luke Thompson.

Kay shared a number of pro-abortion resources on X, labeling herself a Notre Dame "abortion rights expert" and offering to "help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost. DM me [sic]," according to her previous social media posts, as reported by the Irish Rover.

The Irish Rover said the lawsuit was a violation of Indiana's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) law. St. Joseph County Judge Steven David ruled against Kay on Monday and found that the allegedly defamatory statements were in fact true, were not made with actual malice and did not contain "a defamatory inference," the College Fix reported. David noted there were no damages that could be "causally linked" to the articles in question and that the reporting was "lawful."


The Indiana court determined that Kay has a documented history of "advocating abortion legalization" through social media and in published commentary in newspapers and academic journals, which meant she had "intentionally placed herself into the national discussion on abortion."

"The Court concludes that the allegedly defamatory statements were made in the furtherance of the defendant's right to free speech, were made in connection with a public issue, were made with good faith and with a reasonable basis in law and fact," David ruled.

"We are grateful for the Indiana Anti-SLAPP law that protects individuals from such frivolous suits and strategic intimidation, and we look forward to returning to school next week as students without the worries and pressures of a legal battle," the paper said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "It is appalling that a professor at Notre Dame went after undergraduate students at her own institution, and we hope this situation inspires other faithful students across the country to continue fighting for the pursuit of truth on college campuses."

DeReuil told Fox News Digital that he started covering Professor Kay's advocacy after Roe v. Wade was overturned, at which time she began writing op-eds in various publications around the country explaining her stance that abortion restrictions would be harmful. 

After Indiana passed Senate Bill 1, which banned most abortions in the state, DeReuil said Kay became more vocal on her social media about her pro-abortion activism, despite working for a Catholic institution, including statements that she'd be willing to help with access or costs in obtaining abortifacients. 

DeReuil said he started documenting her tweets, eventually interviewing her for about 30 minutes after she gave a lecture on campus titled "Post-Roe America Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans." 

"For me, abortion is a policy issue. And yes, my view runs afoul of Church teaching, but in other areas, my positions are perfectly aligned [with the Church]," Kay said, according to the Irish Rover. 

The Rover also reported that Kay had a sign on her campus office door that read: "This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access — confidentially with care and compassion."

In addition, Kay included her non-Notre Dame email where students could reach her, along with the letter "J," which denotes when a Notre Dame professor is willing to help students access abortion, including Plan B, known as the "morning after" pill, and "Plan C" abortion pills, which are used to end a pregnancy up to 12 weeks. 


"We are here (as private citizens, not representatives of ND) to help you access healthcare when you need it, and we are prepared in every way," Kay wrote in a social media post, according to the student paper. "Look for the ‘J’, Spread the word to students!" 

Thompson's article published in March featured a line that said Kay was "posting offers to procure abortion pills on her office door," which the professor objected to in her complaint, indicating this was false. 

"I just put forward a reporting piece of all of that information," he explained. "At the time, I thought that that would kind of be it. I hoped that I could just put forward her story, and I thought that it would stay a campus issue, but it very quickly blew up in the national media."

Once that happened, DeReuil said Kay started claiming on Twitter that his interview with her had never happened and that the Irish Rover fabricated the entire story. 

"The letter of intent to sue came and I kind of assumed that, okay, this is just a scare tactic, she’s just trying to make us retract the articles, and she won't actually sue us because there's no way there's a case here," he said. "I had recordings of everything, so even though she had said that she didn't interview [with] me, I knew that I could prove that I had the interview and that everything I had reported was factual."

"When she moved forward with legal proceedings in June, I started compiling all of my materials," he added. "Pretty much, I assumed that we had a rock solid case and that it would be over with very quickly … but it still felt like a long time, stretched over a summer and a full semester of school where I was taking classes, despite a professor at that university bringing legal action against the publication I was running and fellow students that I was friends with [and] working [with]."

DeReuil said his day-to-day life on campus remained relatively unchanged because there were already students and professors who didn't like the Irish Rover on campus and it "just confirmed people in their beliefs either way."


"To a certain extent, it was unfortunate because really, if you had looked through the case filings, you should have seen that even if you disagreed with the editorial stance of the Irish Rover on the question of abortion, that the case itself was very silly."

"I actually did know a few people that were very outspokenly pro-choice, but who had actually taken the time to read the case, and then they agreed, 'Okay, this will get dismissed and you guys didn't do anything wrong,' so I was grateful for that," he added. 

Regarding the campus climate while the lawsuit was going on, DeReuil explained that "one of the weirder aspects" of the situation included Thompson having classes with two of the professors who were listed as donors to Kay's GoFundMe, which was set up to help pay for her legal costs.

"I think it's just odd to be caught in this situation of like, 'I'm taking classes with and learning from these people who are actively contributing to a professor who's coming after us in court,'" he said. 

The Irish Rover editorial staff celebrated the judge's decision after the verdict.

"In filing and pursuing this lawsuit over the course of the last year, Kay attempted to silence and intimidate undergraduate students at her own university for accurate reporting on her public comments," the editorial staff wrote on Monday. "We hope that this ruling will serve to discourage such efforts to chill free speech in the future and invigorate others to courageously exercise their right to freedom of speech in pursuit of the truth."

DeReuil said that the ruling reassured him in his decision to fight the lawsuit instead of taking the easier route of retracting what he wrote despite the fact that he felt he hadn't done anything wrong. 

"I thought, 'Okay, this is kind of the first time that I am being challenged in my right to speak the truth and my right to freedom of speech, and so if I cave on the first time I'm challenged, it's setting a bad precedent, I guess, for the rest of my life,'" he said. 

"I thought that it was worth defending what I had written, both for my own sake and my own formation, but also so that other people, when they were challenged, might take courage that a group of undergraduate students can mount a successful defense against a tenured professor … I think that that's one of the bigger power imbalances in a defamation suit that you're going to see," he added.

"So, I hope that with us being successful and the case being dismissed, other people will take courage in the fact that the legal system, at least in some situations, is working and taking a stand for the truth is worth doing."

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