‘Take Heat,’ Curb Told, as Libel Suit Is Dismissed

From a Times Staff Writer

Saying that political candidates who can’t take the heat should get out of the kitchen, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has dismissed Republican Mike Curb’s $7-million libel and slander lawsuit against Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy.

Thomas C. Murphy ruled that McCarthy’s statements in advertisements and interviews during his successful 1986 reelection campaign against Curb were protected because they involved political speech about a public figure.

In a four-page opinion issued Thursday and mailed to both parties, Murphy said he found no evidence that McCarthy was accusing Curb of criminal conduct when he said Curb “made a fortune” on exploitation films in the 1960s that featured themes dealing with drugs, sex and violence.


Curb, who was lieutenant governor from 1978 until 1982, filed the suit a week before the 1986 election, which McCarthy won with 54% of the vote. Curb did not deny that he made money on such films, only that he made “a fortune.” Curb said then that his company made most of its money by producing records for the Mike Curb Congregation, Debby Boone, Marie Osmond and others.

But Murphy said McCarthy’s statements, even if they were false, relied on “literary license.”

“The First Amendment must be given its broadest scope and enforcement, particularly in the field of the political arena,” Murphy wrote. “. . . Harry S. Truman said it best, ‘If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.’ ”