Six marriages? A smear!

I've only had five, a party official testifies in his defamation suit.

Associated Press
Published May 12, 2005

SANFORD - A judge is deciding whether Seminole County Republican Party chairman Jim Stelling was defamed by a letter claiming he had been married six times.

It was only five times, Stelling pointed out in a lawsuit filed against the letter writer.

He testified Tuesday that he believed wide circulation of the error sullied his reputation.

In January 2003, Stelling made a bid to become state Republican chairman. But he narrowly lost in a runoff to Carole Jean Jordan in an election held days after Nancy Goettman, a former county GOP executive committee member, sent a letter to party executives statewide that accused Stelling of having been married six times. He filed the lawsuit soon afterward.

"I believe in family values," Stelling said during Tuesday's half-day trial.

"I did what I thought was right," said Goettman, now living in San Antonio, who acted as her own attorney.

She asked Stelling: Five wives, six wives, when the number gets that high, does being off by one really matter?

"I beg your pardon," Stelling said. "Of course I don't agree with that statement."

Yes, he has been married a lot of times, he said, and no, he's not proud of that. But "no matter how many times I've been married, that has no impact on how I would lead."

One of Stelling's former wives and his current wife, Lorayne, were in the courtroom.

It is not known when Circuit Judge Clayton Simmons will rule.