Are Nebraska Politics Endangered as Herbster and Slama Drop Defamation Lawsuits?

Many readers of The Cornhusker Guardian were saddened to learn that Charles W. Herbster and State Senator Julie Slama had earlier this week dropped their defamation suits against each other.

The suits were triggered after Sen. Slama, a political vassal of Gov. Pete Ricketts, accused Mr. Herbster (shortly before this year’s primary election for Governor, and while Mr. Herbster was still leading in the polls) of improper touching during a major political event.

A Herbster-employed security official told The Cornhusker Guardian shortly after Sen. Slama made her accusation that he was at Mr. Herbster’s side during the entire event, and that he saw no such touching occur.

The Slama-related accusations, coming so late in the game, left Mr. Herbster with no time to respond effectively. The incident essentially cost Mr. Herbster the election and allowed Dr. Jim Pillen (who was strongly endorsed by current Gov. Pete Ricketts) to slip in as the Republican nominee.

Unless there is more to this lawsuit dismissal story than meets the eye, it is hard to see how Mr. Herbster will have any future in elective or appointive politics. He can always be a donor, of course, as most candidates are generally happy to spend someone else’s money in their quests for public office.

But Mr. Herbster himself will no longer be taken seriously as a candidate because of this abandoned effort to “clear [his] name” through the controlled forum of a public trial.

Readers will remember that clearing his name was a major reason for Mr. Herbster’s filing of the lawsuit. He had said at the time that Sen. Slama’s allegedly defamatory statements were damaging to him politically as well as in business and among members of his church community.

Mr. Herbster’s failure to press through to the end in what many saw as a noble endeavor will only embolden his enemies to perfect their political techniques of the gutter and the abattoir. Nebraska politics will be the poorer for it.

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