Kyocera wanted a pitchman for some electronic product they are selling. They approached Ben Stein, who was in a funny scene in a movie 26 years ago, had a Comedy Central game show that launched the career of Jimmy Kimmel, and who has otherwise been a colossal embarrassment to all that is intellectually honest. They offered him $300,000 to appear in some commercials or something. Somehow, it took Kyocera three months to figure out that Ben Stein holds positions that are rather counter to the scientific mainstream (but that make him a darling, I’m sure, on the Republican cocktail party circuit) on the non-question of man-made climate change. So they withdrew their offer to him.
I have a few concerns about Kyocera here, in that they are an electronics company that apparently does not know how to Google someone.
The bigger issue is this: faced with the withdrawal of a proposed contract still under negotiation, Ben Stein sued, claiming not only breach of contract but violation of his religious liberties.
The complaint, filed on January 11, 2012, alleges that a valid contract exists between Stein and Kyocera because there had been both “offer” and “acceptance.” He claims that, although the parties had not signed a final contract, their agreement is nonetheless legally binding, in part because he had already changed his plans to accomodate Kyocera.
This sounds more like promissory estoppel to me than breach of contract, but that wouldn’t get him the full $300,000 value of the contract in damages. Still, any first-year law student will tell you that “offer” and “acceptance,” in addition to “consideration,” are fundamental components of a binding contract. (Second-year law students might tell you that it is a little more complicated than just that, but go with me here.) I therefore cannot categorically or snarkily dismiss a breach of contract claim in this case.
I can, however, snarkily dismiss his claim for “wrongful discharge in violation of fundamental public policy,” in which he claims that Kyocera’s withdrawal of their offer discriminates against him for his religious beliefs. He is basically asking the government to tell a business what to do on a matter (in his mind) of religious conscience. Don’t Republicans generally oppose that?
At least Stein has the honesty to admit that his questioning of anthropogenic global warming is based on religious doctrine and not any sort of scientific knowledge. I wonder if that was a deliberate admission on his part.
He throws in a claim for “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” because adhering to basic scientific knowledge obviously hurts his fee-fees.
This case has the hypothetical potential to put global warming denialism on trial, given that Stein either has to demonstrate that Kyocera dishonestly discriminated against a legitimate difference of scientific opinion, or he has to come right out and say it’s a religious doctrine and therefore not subject to the court’s (or Kyocera’s) review. Either way, science is likely to have a good day.
(h/t PZ Myers for the story)