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Judge clears way for Enquirer expose about Gifford tryst

A federal judge refused to block publication of a National Enquirer story that alleges its competitor, the Globe, paid a former flight attendant $250,000 to set up a tryst with sportscaster Frank Gifford.

The Globe sought to stop the National Enquirer story on the grounds that it violated the Globe's copyright and infringed on its trade secrets. The Globe claimed to have exclusive rights to the flight attendant's story.

But U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder rejected the argument Thursday, saying that barring publication of the Enquirer article would amount to "prior restraint" _ a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"This is a remarkable day (when) one newspaper is trying to enjoin another newspaper from publishing," Enquirer lawyer Bruce Wessel said during the hearing.

The Enquirer story is scheduled to appear in next week's editions.

The Globe first published a story about Gifford's affair with former TWA flight attendant Suzen Johnson in its May 20, 1997, edition. Gifford is married to television personality Kathie Lee Gifford.

The Enquirer report, headlined "Kathie Lee Shocker: Frank's Lover Tells All," reportedly quotes Ms. Johnson as saying she regrets the affair ever took place.

In court, Globe lawyers denied paying Ms. Johnson $250,000 to lure Gifford into a wired Manhattan hotel room and argued the Enquirer's report reveals a trade secret _ how much it pays sources.

"I have grave doubts as to whether the amount paid is a "trade secret,' " Snyder said in rejecting the Globe's request.

David Perel, executive editor of the Enquirer, said the ruling was a victory for the First Amendment. "We will show America what they were trying to hide," Perel said Thursday.

The Globe also tried unsuccessfully to keep news reporters out of the hearing.

"I'm very disinclined to do that," Snyder said. "I think the press has a right to be here."

Though Snyder refused to bar publication of the article, she told Globe lawyers that they were still entitled to pursue their lawsuit against the Enquirer and Johnson for copyright infringement and breach of contract.

And if anything in the Enquirer story amounted to defamation of the Globe, it could pursue that claim, she said.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, seeks at least $5-million in damages, plus court costs and attorneys fees.

Enquirer editor Steve Coz said the lawsuit was not about copyright infringement and breach of contract but about the Globe trying to hide its role in creating a scandal for the sake of a story.

Globe general counsel Michael Kahane called Coz's remarks "ridiculous."

Lawyers said in court that the Enquirer planned to publish its article quoting Johnson under the headline: "I set up Frank for $250,000."

_ Reuters contributed to this report.