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Wisconsin state Sen. Cory Tomczyk appealed in June 2023 the dismissal of his defamation lawsuit against the Wausau Pilot & Review, a nonprofit newsroom.

The appeal was pending as of Sept. 5.

Here’s the chronology:

August 2021: The Pilot & Review reported that Tomczyk, a businessman and former local school board member, was overheard at a Marathon County Executive Committee meeting calling a 13-year-old boy who spoke at the meeting a “fag.”

November 2021: Tomczyk sued, denying he used the slur at the meeting.

November 2022: Tomczyk was elected to the Senate, representing parts of the Wausau area.

April 2023: Marathon County Circuit Judge Scott Corbett dismissed the lawsuit, ruling Tomczyk was a public figure and had not proved actual malice by the Pilot & Review.

The lawsuit has cost the newsroom $150,000 in legal bills and threatens to put it out of business, its publisher said in August.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Wisconsin Court System: WSCCA Case History Cory Tomczyk v. Wausau Pilot and Review Corporation

Google Docs: Marathon County Case Number 2021CV000625 Cory Tomczyk et al vs. Wausau Pilot and Review Corporation et al

GuideStar: Wausau Pilot and Review Corporation

Wausau Pilot & Review: Threats against elected officials marked heated debate on ‘Community for All’ resolution

New York Times: Report on Anti-Gay Slur Could Put Local News Site Out of Business

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.