SweePee Rambo is ugly. Really, really ugly.
You can note that she's mostly bald, with a wispy mohawk. You can laugh at her sticking-out tongue. You can describe her as scrawny and bow-legged, blind and incontinent. You can dub her "a "shivering little hunk of canine flesh," as The Guardian puts it, and you can call her the World's Ugliest Dog — she won that title fair and square this year, after two years of coming up short.
But don't slander the creature: She's not marked with unsightly oozing sores.
This story of ugly-dog libel begins with Rambo's victory at the World's Ugliest Dog contest in Petaluma, Calif.
A local newspaper, The Press Democrat, covered the triumph, of course. They noted that judge Neal Gottlieb "seemed particularly impressed with a sore on SweePee's leg, noting dogs get extra points for ooze."
The Associated Press picked up the story, citing the oozing sore in the headline. The Guardian ran the AP text.
And then the angry email arrived. The Guardian quotes the missive, which it says was sent not only to the British paper, but to the Press Democrat, as well:
"I am horrified!You wrote that my dog, SWEEPEE the winner of the worlds ugliest dog has oozing sores! That was not my dog. There was a dog there that had terrible sores but that was not my dog! This kind of lie makes me look like an irresponsible pet owner."People are commenting about how horrible I am online !!! ... [This] really has taken away a really cool thing for me and makes me embarrassed. I want this fixed immediately and want an apology. Where did you get this bad information from?!?!?!"
The Guardian responded by sending a reporter to chase down the truth.
The case is more complicated than it seems: That email? Not sent by SweePee's owner, according to, well, SweePee's owner. But the allegation of libel is, it appears, well-founded.
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