The Attack on Bob Anderson

As an example of biased reporting in the Star Tribune, two simultaneous attacks took place against landlord Bob Anderson, a member of Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee, in the middle of August, 1999. One was a front-page story in the Sunday paper, and the other an editorial on the same subject in the same newspaper.

Both writings referred to the fact that Bob Anderson had sued a neighbor, Andy Lindberg, for slanderous remarks made at a Minneapolis City Council meeting where his application for a rental license was denied. It was possible that the remarks had helped to influence that decision. The gist of the article and editorial was that Anderson had introduced a frivolous lawsuit against Lindberg forcing him to spend thousands of dollars for attorney fees.

The reason Anderson’s lawsuit was frivolous, according to the Star Tribune, was that the judge had thrown out all but one count and had awarded Anderson $1.00. The editorial writer appealed for some pro bono attorney to take Lindberg’s case for free.


The Star Tribune omitted many important facts which are revealed in Anderson’s letter of response:

“Dear Editor:

As the subject of a front-page article by James Walsh smearing my character, I feel obliged to respond to the major points.

My lawsuit against the Lindbergs was based primily on the fact that Mrs. Lindberg testified before the Minneapolis City Council that I had told her husband that she was a “bitch”. I had not said that. Her husband even admitted at a public gathering that his wife’s remark was untrue. So it was a slam-dunk case of slander. Judge Bransford dismissed this part of the case, however, because she thought that standards of free speech were much looser at public meetings such as the one at the City Council.

If I had such a weak case, though, why did the City of Minneapolis pay me $5,000 for an out-of-court settlement over some of the same issues? And why did reporter Walsh fail to mention that settlement?

The article accused me of illegally applying for homestead status on three properties. That is untrue. What actually happened is that I had purchased two properties which were already homesteaded and the homestead status had not yet expired. Also, I had dropped the homestead on the third property two months before the incident with the Lindbergs at the City Council. Mr. Lindberg, who is a professional realtor, had checked part of the record but conveniently failed to check the rest.

The Lindbergs are not these innocent people, tired of crime, who ran into a tough cookie like me. They had harassed the daylights out of the previous owner, a handicapped man who was so distraught from the experience of owning this building that he left all his furniture behind.

They also had coaching from the police SAFE officers and from a City Council member. During the process of discovery, I acquired a document written by Council member Kathy Thurber proposing that neighborhood activists use the term ‘party house’ when complaining to Inspections, presumably even if it was not true.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the Minneapolis block clubs, if you lie about me or other landlords, you may get sued.”

At this point, Anderson offered to settle the case against the Lindbergs for an apology and $1.00. The Lindberg’s refused. They might have found a pro bono attorney to help them. The judge, Bransford, was pregnant so she could not continue through the appeal process. A new judge, Harold Crump, was appointed.

In February 2000, Judge Crump issued his decision. Although Bob Anderson had not asked for any monetary damages, the judge awarded him $10,000 in damages. So apparently this judge did not think that Anderson’s lawsuit was frivolous.

What was the Star Tribune’s reaction to this startling development? Silence. Nothing was written about the decision, and there were no editorials. Even though six months earlier this matter was deemed important enough to be featured on page 1 of the Sunday paper and be discussed in an editorial, the Star Tribune evidently did not care to be shown with egg on its face when the purported injustice concerned a landlord.

From a letter to the Star Tribune's managing editor:

"When I met you at the traveling show on journalistic history at the Mall of America last summer, I told you of ill-treatment given Mr. Robert Anderson, a landlord in south Minneapolis. Even though you appeared to agree with the complaint, nothing yet has been done to correct the situation - at least, not to my knowledge.

Briefly, a front page story in the Sunday paper, reinforced by a concurrent editorial, accused Mr. Anderson of filing a frivolous lawsuit for slander against a neighbor which forced that neighbor to spend money to hire a lawyer. The evidence of its alleged frivolity was that the trial judged dismissed all but one of Anderson’s complaints and awarded him $1.00 for damages. As it happened, the judge went on maternity leave and was replaced by another judge. Anderson offered to settle the case for $1.00 and an apology. The other party refused. The new judge then awarded Anderson $10,000 which, by the Star Tribune’s earlier logic, would suggest that the suit was not frivolous. Yet, there was no mention in your newspaper of this settlement. Why not?"

There was no response from this editor.

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