WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Senate Democratic Committee calls for Dist. 29 Sen. Cory Tomczyk to resign after he filed an appeal Thursday of a judge’s dismissal ruling in his lawsuit against a Wausau news outlet.
Neither the senator’s office nor his attorney commented on the committee’s request to resign, but denies the using the racial slur at the referenced meeting.
Sen. Tomczyk filed a defamation lawsuit against the Wausau Pilot and Review in Nov. 2021 before he was elected to the Senate. He is now appealing the judge’s summary ruling, which dismissed the case.
Marathon County “Community for All” resolution debate
In 2021, the Wausau Pilot and Review published articles following the Marathon County Board’s Executive Committee meeting that was debating the “Community for All” resolution. In those articles, it mentions an incident where it is asserted that Mosinee-resident, Tomczyk, who spoke in opposition to the resolution, called a 13-year-old boy a derogatory LGBTQ+ slur.
The lawsuit lays out the Wausau Pilot and Review’s reporting process, but Sen. Tomczyk denies saying the word at that meeting. In the summary judgment, the judge sided with the news outlet’s assertion that, for several reasons, Sen. Tomczyk was considered a public figure at the time, even before he was elected to the state legislature. This means Sen. Tomczyk has a higher bar to prove defamation than a “limited-purpose” public figure or non-public figure. That bar is that he would have to prove that the journalists published with “actual malice” compared to “negligence.”
The judge dismissed the case ruling that Sen. Tomczyk did not meet his burden of proof and noted that even if he was not considered a public figure, he did not prove “negligence” either.
Sen. Tomczyk’s lawyer, Matthew Fernholz, sent a statement in response the the judge’s dismissal and their appeal:
Shereen Siewert, the owner and editor of the Wausau Pilot and Review also provided a statement in response to Sen. Tomczyk’s appeal: