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Lobel files libel suit in response to 'Get Fuzzy' strip

Channel 4 sports anchor Bob Lobel has filed a libel suit against ''Get Fuzzy" comic strip creator Darby Conley, United Feature Syndicate, and the New Bedford Standard-Times, seeking unspecified damages and ''such other and further relief the court finds just and appropriate."

The four-page complaint and demand for a jury trial was filed Thursday in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham by attorney Harry Manion. The complaint charges that the May 13 version of the comic strip, by Conley, ''constitutes a false and malicious libel of and concerning Lobel. The cartoon, read in its totality, is a smear of Lobel.

''It implies and asserts that Lobel is intoxicated when appearing on television. During his entire 34-plus-year career, Lobel has never appeared on the air intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol. The statement that Lobel is a drunk is false and is intended to injure him personally and professionally, and was made at a time when it was common knowledge that Lobel was in negotiations with his employer for a contract renewal."

The complaint further charges that ''the matters referred to in the cartoon were made with actual malice by the defendants, their agents, servants, and employees, and were made with knowledge that the accusations were false, or were made with reckless disregard of whether they were false."

According to the complaint, Conley lives in Carlisle. Attempts to reach him for comment were not successful, and representatives of United Feature Syndicate did not return phone calls.

The website www.comics.com, which archives strips, including Get Fuzzy, has substituted a different strip in its May 13 file, and took down pages about the strip's author and its history.

''Get Fuzzy" runs in more than 100 papers, including the Globe, where Lobel's name was changed to ''him."

''The Globe's action helps us," said Manion. ''The paper exercised editorial responsibility. If not, believe me, we would have sued them."

Lobel, sports director at Channel 4 since 1981, is the dean of Boston sportscasters. His on-air demeanor mixes humor and news, and the occasional lapses of focus that have led to rumors that he may have been drinking before going on the air.

''Not so," said Manion. ''I'm with him socially, at functions, and on the golf course. He's not a drinker."

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