University PR director in hot water following accusatory e-mail

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

employed there.

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

the rumor.

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