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Is 'skank' worse than 'jerk'?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 28, 2009 - Is "skank" no worse than "jerk"?

The Vogue cover model maligned as a "skank" by an anonymous blogger has struck up an email correspondence with Tina Meier, mother of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old MySpace suicide victim from St. Charles, Mo. Maureen Dowd reported in her column this week that the model, Liskula Cohen, was thinking about becoming an activist after emailing Meier, another victim of anonymous Internet chatter.

But it is the anonymous blogger who smeared Cohen who is feeling most victimized. Rosemary Port, a 29-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology, says she will sue Google for $15 million because it violated her privacy by giving up her real identity to Cohen.

Port should probably save her legal fees. Cohen went to court to force Google to turn over Port's name. The judge ruled in Cohen's favor, so Google had no choice but to provide the information.

New York Judge Joan Madden rejected Port's claim that calling Cohen a "skank" and a "ho" was no worse than calling someone a "jerk. In the blog, Port wrote, "I would have to say that the first place award for 'Skankiest in NYC' would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen," whom she went on to describe as a "psychotic, lying, whoring ... skank."

Port argued that this was clearly "non-actionable opinion/hyperbole." But Judge Madden wasn't buying that argument. She said the terms implied that Cohen was promiscuous and that this claim was a factual one, not a statement of opinion. For that reason, the terms could have defamed Cohen.

Cohen said she has forgiven Port and decided not to sue. But Port is in a litigious mood and seemed in a Daily News story to blame Cohen for defaming herself. "This has become a public spectacle and a circus that is not my doing," Port told the Daily News. "By going to the press, she defamed herself."