LISLE, IL: A Chicago-area university and its PR director are being
sued in a multimillion-dollar defamation suit filed by an
Indian-American gas station owner.
The suit claims that Andi Kuhn, director of PR for Benedictine
University, passed along an e-mail that said gas-station owner Irshad
Khan was an Osama bin Laden supporter who had displayed the terrorist's
picture in his Mobil station. Kuhn not only forwarded the e-mail to
others, but also added her own comments, claiming she'd confirmed the
accusations against Khan, said Larry Thompson, Khan's attorney.
The university is named in the suit because Kuhn included her title and
the name of the school in the e-mail she sent. Thompson explained, "The
allegation is she was acting in the scope of her duties. When she does
that, the university is liable."
The small Catholic school issued a statement saying, "The actions
alluded to in the pending lawsuit were not actions of Benedictine
University and were not known, sanctioned, or authorized at the time
they allegedly took place, nor were they condoned."
The university said it was not seeking outside crisis communications
help. Its four-person PR staff is handling press calls related to the
lawsuit, though the school wouldn't comment as to whether Kuhn was still
Khan originally talked of suing for $5 million, but a final
amount hasn't been decided, Thompson said. His firm, James, Gustafson &
Thompson, is still trying to determine who started the e-mail that Kuhn
received, and who else might have passed it on to others. These people
are likely to be named in the suit.
The e-mail, first sent September 14, has cost Khan about one-third of
his normal business since, Thompson said. Khan denies that he supports
bin Laden, and has put up five American flags at his station to dispel