A judge dismissed actor and podcast comedian Michael Rapaport’s defamation lawsuit against Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, dismissing a portion of a case centered on a clown-faced shirt and a sexually transmitted disease.
Rapaport’s defamation claim was dismissed by U.S. Southern District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Monday. Rapaport sued over a photoshopped clown T-shirt that Barstool Sports began selling after his messy departure from the network.
Rapaport’s complaint that a red blemish placed on his face—just below a clown nose—insinuated that he was infected with herpes was specifically addressed by the judge. The judge, however, disagreed, stating that a “reasonable audience” would not associate the image of his face with allegations that he had the STD.
Rapaport and Portnoy had a series of petty arguments on social media in the months following Rapaport’s departure from the network, with the actor releasing an image of himself having sex with Portnoy. The defamation suit claimed that Barstool Sports called him a “racist,” and a “D-list actor,” but the judge dismissed the accusations as “nothing more than subjective evaluations.”
The judge’s 64-page decision, issued on Monday, does not bring the lawsuit to a close, as it also blamed Barstool Sports of breach of contract. The judge moved to have those contract claims heard in court.
“While hardly flattering to Rapaport, this image standing alone is not actionable because a reasonable audience would not understand the shirt to be asserting as a fact that Rapaport has herpes,” Buchwald’s ruling stated, referring to the clown nose T-shirt at the heart of the lawsuit.
During a deposition in September 2019, Portnoy claimed that his insults to his former podcasting employee were simply retaliation for nasty comments Rapaport had already made about him.
In honor of Rappaport getting his ass kicked in court here is the time I put his lawyers in a mental torture chamber pic.twitter.com/GT8clSz2B3
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) March 30, 2021
— Jon D. (@Pa_pajon) March 30, 2021
“He called me a p***y repeatedly and made pictures of him having sex with me from behind,” Portnoy testified at a legal hearing in Manhattan. On Tuesday, Portnoy appeared to gloat about the court victory on Twitter.
“In honor of Rappaport [sic] getting his ass kicked in court here is the time I put his lawyers in a mental torture chamber,” Portnoy tweeted Tuesday, along with a video link to the tense September 2019 deposition.
“To clarify, Rapaport [sic] had his idiot coworkers there, who were furiously scribbling notes to themselves across the table from me. In the end, that’s who I gave the thumbs up to.”
Rapaport hasn’t responded to Portnoy’s social media jabs since the judge’s defamation lawsuit dismissal was announced Monday morning. Newsweek reached out to Barstool Sports and Rapaport’s representatives for comment on the case and the upcoming breach of contract trial.