February 22, 2008 / 1:31 PM / 10 years ago

Will Smith wins damages over Hitler claim

LONDON (Reuters) - Will Smith won an apology and undisclosed damages in a London court on Friday over a false claim that he had described World War Two Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as a “good person.”

Actor Will Smith flashes a victory sign as he arrives on the red carpet to the premiere of the film "I Am Legend" in Berlin, January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

The Oscar-nominated star, one of the world’s most popular and highly paid actors, was left deeply distressed and acutely embarrassed over the wrong story published by an entertainment newswire service, the High Court heard.

Smith’s comments, originally published in the Scottish Daily Record newspaper, were then “wholly misrepresented” by the London-based World Entertainment News Network (WENN), Judge David Eady was told.

The agency, which says on its website that it provides information to more than 1,000 media outlets in 25 countries, picked up the interview and then wrongly published worldwide a story headlined “Smith: Hitler was a good person.”

“The article alleged (Smith) had declared in an interview that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was a good person,” Smith’s lawyer Rachel Atkins told the court.

“It wholly misrepresents (his) actual words.”

She said Smith, also a Grammy-winning rapper who was not in court, actually thought Hitler was “vile and heinous.”

“The allegations that he could think otherwise is deeply distressing...and has caused him acute embarrassment,” she said.

WENN retracted the story and issued a correction and an apology, but no media published it, leaving the libel “at large,” Atkins said.

She said the undisclosed compensation WENN had agreed to pay would be donated to an unnamed charity. It also will meet his legal costs.

John Melville Smith, defending WENN, said his client apologized for the story, which they now admitted was wrong.

“(WENN) offers its apologies to (Smith) for any distress and embarrassment caused by this article,” he told the court.

“(It) accepts that the allegations concerning (him) were misleading and published in error.”

Smith has starred in several Hollywood blockbusters including “Men In Black,” “Independence Day” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which earned him a second Academy Award nomination.

Editing by Jeremy Lovell and Jon Boyle

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