UPDATE: A Harpo rep has released the following statement from Oprah's attorney Chip Babcock: "Oprah and Harpo await the opportunity to present the case in court."
Oprah Winfrey is on the defensive.
A federal judge in Philadelphia has set March 29 as the trial date in a $250,000 defamation suit filed against the talk-show host by the former headmistress of Winfrey's South Africa-based girls academy.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno ruled against a motion by Team Oprah to dismiss the complaint brought by Nomvuyo Mzaname. Instead, hizzoner ruled there was sufficient evidence of "capable defamatory meaning" within the allegations that the case should go before a jury.
Mazamane, 40, claims she was defamed by Winfrey at a 2007 press conference after news surfaced about a sex-abuse scandal at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg.
Winfrey's lawyers argued that her statements—Oprah said that she had "lost confidence" in Mazamane as the head of the school—represented an opinion, which is protected under the First Amendment. But Robreno disagreed, noting that another Winfrey statement, that "any person that has caused harm to the students would not be returning" to the school, implied "[Mazamane] played some role in the 'harm' caused to the students."
After an investigation, a 27-year-old dorm matron, Virginia Mokgobo, was subsequently arrested by South African police and dismissed from her job.
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