Blake Shelton slams tabloid's 'appalling' evidence of alcoholism

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Blake Shelton Fires Back in Tabloid Lawsuit: "No Naked Women"

Blake Shelton says he doesn't drink too much. And he asserts that a cover story carried by In Touch Weekly last September that framed him as having enough of a drinking problem to send him to rehab was built on "friend-of-friend gossip" and a guy who thinks he can "spot alcoholism."

The country singer and Voice star has lashed back at an attempt from Bauer Publishing to strike his defamation lawsuit.

Bauer is leveraging California's anti-SLAPP statute, meant to deter legal actions aimed at infringing First Amendment rights on an issue of public interest. Shelton's attorney Larry Stein argues in opposition papers filed on Wednesday that a "celebrity's private medical condition is not an issue of public interest."

If a judge agrees, the lawsuit moves forward. If not, the judge weighs Shelton's likelihood of prevailing in the lawsuit before giving a green light. There will be plenty of issues for the judge to analyze if it gets this far.

For example, what exactly did the story with the cover line "The Real Story: REHAB for Blake" communicate?

Blake Shelton through the years:

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Blake Shelton slams tabloid's 'appalling' evidence of alcoholism
Blake Shelton spoofed farmer Chris Soules as 'The Bachelor' on 'Saturday Night Live.'
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Taran Killam and Blake Shelton during the 'Magician' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, Bobby Moynihan, Pete Davidson, Blake Shelton, Cecily Strong, Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer during Blake Shelton's Hee-Haw Monologue on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Leslie Jones during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: Blake Shelton during the monologue on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant as Ashley during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Aidy Bryant as Ashley during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Kate McKinnon during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Vanessa Bayer during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Sasheer Zamata during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton and Kate McKinnon during the 'Farm Hunk' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: (l-r) Blake Shelton, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant during the 'Wishing Boot' skit on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE VOICE -- 'Live Show' Episode 718B -- Pictured: Blake Shelton -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: Musical guest Blake Shelton performs on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Blake Shelton' Episode 1674 -- Pictured: Musical guest Blake Shelton performs on January 24, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Blake Shelton is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - Emmy Award-nominated 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight (11:35 p.m. - 12:41 a.m., ET), packed with hilarious comedy bits and features a diverse lineup of guests including celebrities, athletes, musicians, comedians and humorous human interest subjects. The guests for THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11 included panelist and musical guest Blake Shelton (Album 'Bringing Back the Sunshine') and actress Laura Dern ('Wild'). (Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Blake Shelton is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Ashley Monroe and Blake Shelton are seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: Singer/musician Blake Shelton attends the NBC's 'The Voice' Season 7 Red Carpet Event held at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on December 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: Blake Shelton attends NBC's 'The Voice' season 7 red carpet event at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on December 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Blake Shelton (L) and Adam Levine arrive for NBC's 'The Voice' Season 7 Red Carpet Event at Universal CityWalk on November 24, 2014 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Singer Blake Shelton attends the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert attend the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
Blake Shelton poses in the press room with the award for male vocalist of the year at the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton performs during the CMA Fest at LP Field on Friday, June 6, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by [Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton accepts the award for male video of the year for “Doin’ What She Likes” at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton walks to the stage to accept the award for male video of the year for “Doin’ What She Likes” at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton, right, hugs Luke Bryan in the audience as he walks to the stage to accept his award for male video of the year for "Doin’ What She Likes" at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton performs at the iHeartRadio Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton speaks on stage at the iHeartRadio Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton, left, and Shakira perform on stage at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Gwen Sebastian, left, and Blake Shelton perform on stage at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Luke Bryan, left, and Blake Shelton take a selfie in the audience at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Miranda Lambert, left, and Blake Shelton arrive at the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Miranda Lambert , right, and Blake Shelton arrive at the 47th annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Blake Shelton performs on day 2 of the 2013 CMA Music festival at LP Field on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
In this image provided by NBC Blake Shelton and Danielle Bradbery pose after she won season-four of "The Voice" Tuesday June 18, 2013. Bradbery never had a big singing gig or a vocal lesson. It's also the third win for her coach Blake Shelton. (AP Photo?NBC, Trae Patton)
Blake Shelton performs on day 2 of the 2013 CMA Music festival at LP Field on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
This May 21, 2013 photo released by NBC shows married singers Miranda Lambert, left, and Blake Shelton performing an acoustic version of the hit "Over You" during a broadcast of the singing competition series, "The Voice," in Los Angeles. Shelton and NBC are putting together a benefit for Oklahoma tornado victims. Shelton, an Oklahoma native, told reporters about the fundraising effort after Tuesday night's episode of "The Voice." He said the benefit would be held soon in nearby Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/NBC, Trae Patton)
Miranda Lambert, right, and Blake Shelton accept the award for song of the year for "Over You" at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 7, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
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Bauer says the story was clear that he didn't go to rehab, that he wouldn't listen to those who wanted him there and that he was throwing himself into the new season of The Voice, NBC's reality competition show.

Shelton's opposition provides case law for the precedent that "a cover alone can be a basis of a claim for defamation," and as for the story itself, focuses on the story's suggestion that he needs rehab, specifically statements pertaining to how he "hit rock bottom," that his "drinking and womanizing are what helped torpedo his four year marriage to Miranda" (referring to singer Miranda Lambert), and that his friends think he should go to rehab.

"None of these statements constitute opinion," states the opposition brief.

If Shelton drinks so much and has a need for rehab, so what? That's essentially the question that Bauer put to the judge by arguing in its own brief, "There is nothing inherently defamatory about electing to seek treatment for drinking."

Au contraire comes the opposition. "Accepting as true that changing social mores have led to an increased number of people with empathy for people suffering from alcoholism, Bauer is not immunized from liability for defamation where a respectable minority still views the Rehab Story with contempt," responds the plaintiff.

Bauer is also attempting to make the provocative argument that Shelton is "libel-proof" thanks to many tweets sent out to more than 15 million followers crowing about how much he drinks. In fact, the publisher asserted that Shelton is famous for his signature Twitter tagline, 'Drunk.'"

"The libel-proof doctrine is disfavored and no California state court has ever applied it," states the Shelton brief, which it must be noted, comes in federal court. Nevertheless, the brief adds, "Shelton's hyperbolic Tweets and other statements do not make him libel-proof because his followers understand the forum in which they are made and that they are part of a theatrical persona, not reality... Shelton is not libel proof from allegations of alcoholism or reports that he needs rehab simply because he is known to enjoy alcoholic beverages... Admission to regularly imbibing a legal substance does not allow any party to state that he needs rehab and certainly does not make Shelton libel proof from claims of a need for rehab or excessive drinking to the point of harming his professional and personal life."

All of this hardly ends the judge's coming analysis because Shelton is a public figure, and as such, has to show actual malice in the form of knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.

Bauer says that In Touch relied on past news reports and had sources, but Shelton's attorney ridicules this.

To those past news reports, the opposition brief states, "What Bauer does not tell the Court, however, is that many of such reports were published by Bauer itself or alleged third parties (e.g. Radar Online) that simply quote from Bauer's own articles."

And as for the sources -; including a woman leaving Mexico who spoke to a couple people at a hotel who observed and spoke to Shelton ("double hearsay"!) there during his supposed alcoholic bender -; Stein writes this is the evidence perhaps "most appalling (and the best evidence of Bauer's malice)."

Plus there's this guy: "Exemplary of the shoddy journalism pervasive throughout the Rehab Story, Bauer quotes a purported addiction expert who is, in fact, a Certified Financial Planner without any medical training whatsoever, who claims he has the ability to 'spot alcoholism.'"

If that's not enough to carry the lawsuit forward, Shelton provides declarations from Voice producers, an exec at his record company, his manager, plus his own that states in part, "I do not drink excessively, binge drink, or have a drinking problem. I do not, as the Rehab Story alleges, drink vodka before 11:00 a.m. I am never drunk, intoxicated, or unable to perform my job on The Voice or elsewhere. I do not slur my words or stumble when I drink. I have never urinated on a mailbox in public, or otherwise. I did not start drinking at 14. I did not start drinking as a teenager. I did not start drinking to cope with my brother's death."

Here's Shelton's declaration as well as the opposition memorandum.

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