Michael Rapaport Loses Court Battle Against Barstool Sports and Dave Portnoy Over Clown Shirt

A judge dismissed actor and podcast comedian Michael Rapaport's defamation lawsuit against Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, striking down part of a suit that centered around a clown-faced shirt and a sexually transmitted disease.

U.S. Southern District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Monday dismissed the defamation claim made by Rapaport, who sued over a photoshopped clown T-shirt that Barstool Sports began selling after his messy departure from the network.

The judge specifically honed in on Rapaport's complaint that a red blemish placed on his face—just below a clown nose—insinuated that he was infected with herpes. But the judge disagreed, saying that a "reasonable audience" would not tie the image featuring his face to accusations that he had the STD.

Rapaport and Portnoy engaged in a series of petty arguments on social media in the months after Rapaport separated from the network, with the actor releasing an image that showed himself having sex with Portnoy. The defamation lawsuit noted that Barstool Sports described him as a "racist," and a "D-list actor," but the judge labeled those insults "nothing more than subjective evaluations."

The judge's 64-page opinion issued Monday doesn't fully close the lawsuit, which also accused Barstool Sports of breach of contract. The judge moved to send those contract claims to trial.

"While hardly flattering to Rapaport, this image standing alone is not actionable because a reasonable audience would not understand the shirt to be asserting as a fact that Rapaport has herpes," Buchwald's ruling read, addressing the clown nose T-shirt at the center of the lawsuit.

During a deposition in September 2019, Portnoy said his insults toward his former podcasting employee were simply responses to nasty comments already made by Rapaport toward him.

Is that herpes on @MichaelRapaport ? Looks like herpes..... Gross pic.twitter.com/WC1dxKgr6K

— Jon D. (@Pa_pajon) March 30, 2021

"He called me a p***y repeatedly and made pictures of him having sex with me from behind," Portnoy said at the legal hearing in Manhattan. Portnoy appeared to gloat over the court victory Tuesday on Twitter.

"In honor of Rappaport [sic] getting his ass kicked in court here is the time I put his lawyers in a mental torture chamber," Portnoy tweeted Tuesday, sharing a video link to the combative September 2019 deposition.

"Just to clarify Rapaort [sic] had his idiot coworkers there who may be dumber than he is sitting across the table from me furiously scribbling notes to themselves. That's who I gave the thumbs up to at the end."

Rapaport has not responded to Portnoy's social media jabs since the release of judge's defamation lawsuit dismissal Monday morning. Newsweek reached out to Barstool Sports and representatives for Rapaport for additional remarks about the case and impending breach of contract trial proceedings.

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Michael Rapaport visits SiriusXM at SiriusXM Studios on February 19, 2020, in New York City. Jason Mendez/Getty Images