Two Georgia electoral officials, targeted by a right-wing campaign that falsely claimed to have falsified ballots, filed a libel suit Thursday against one of the leading national sources of disinformation in support of Trump.
The lawsuit against the right-wing conspiratorial website The Gateway Pundit was filed by Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shay Moss, who handled ballots in Atlanta during the 2020 Fulton County Election Commission. It follows a series of defamation suits filed by election equipment operators against conservative television operators such as Fox News, Newsmax and One America News.
The lawsuit from Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss was one of the first to be filed by individual election officials who were unwittingly drawn into an alternative universe of far-right media who claimed and continue to claim that Donald J. Trump won last year’s competition. presidential elections.
“I want the defendants to know that my daughter and I are real people who deserve justice, and I never want them to do this with anyone else,” Ms Freeman said in a statement.
Ms Moss, who continues to serve on the Fulton County electoral council, and Ms Freeman, a temporary 2020 election clerk, were trapped by Trump-backed media and Mr Trump himself after Gateway Pundit posted dozens of false stories about them from December last year to November this year. The stories called the two women “crooked Democrats” and claimed that they “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting them without the presence of election observers.”
An investigation by Georgia’s secretary of state found the two women did nothing wrong and legally counted the ballots.
It all began a month after the 2020 election on December 3, when Mr Trump’s campaign lawyer replayed a taped piece of surveillance footage for a Georgia Senate committee. The lawyer falsely claimed that Fulton’s election officials pulled 18,000 fake ballots from a suitcase and illegally passed them through voting machines.
The charge, which was quickly denied by Fulton County and Georgia election officials, was nevertheless reinforced by Rudolph Giuliani and other Trump allies. A week after the first Gateway Pundit story, Mr. Giuliani likened Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman to drug dealers and called for searches of their homes during hearings with the Georgia Legislature.
Mr Trump himself referred to Ms Freeman’s name 18 times during a January 3 conversation with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The call at the time was one of the president’s most egregious attempts to overturn an election he lost to Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who defeated Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes.
The Gateway Pundit is published by twin brothers James and Joseph Hooft. The Hooft brothers did not respond to requests for comment. In April, the brothers spent 57 minutes expounding their myriad false theories about the 2020 election to Regent University, a Virginia school founded by Pat Robertson.
“We need Americans to trust their elections,” said James Hooft. “We just hope and pray for divine intervention and something to happen to save this country and save our elections.”
The lawsuit, filed in Missouri District Court in St. Louis, where James Hooft resides, outlines the injuries sustained by both women and their family after Gateway Pundit launched a campaign against them.
They received death threats, continued harassment from phone calls and text messages, and unwanted pizza delivery to their homes. Miss Freeman and Miss Moss, both of whom are black, have also been racially motivated.
The harassment was detailed in a Reuters article published Wednesday that included recordings of calls to Ms Freeman’s emergency services when Trump supporters came to her house and knocked on her door last December.
According to Reuters, Ms. Moss earns about $ 36,000 a year working full-time in Fulton County. Miss Freeman, a temporary worker, was paid $ 16 an hour. Ms. Freeman was forced to close her online fashion accessories business when she was bombarded with threats.
On January 6, as thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington for a rally that led to the storming of the Capitol in an attempt to block Congress from confirming Mr. Biden’s victory, another crowd surrounded Ms. Freeman’s home in suburb Cobb County. “Someone on foot, someone in vehicles, someone with a megaphone,” said the suit.
But according to the lawsuit, Ms. Freeman had by then left her home on the advice of the FBI. She did not return to her home for two months.
Miss Moss received abusive calls on a cell phone she gave to her teenage son. He turned off his cell phone to stop unwanted calls, but was unable to do so during school hours. He used his phone as a mobile hotspot to connect his computer to the Internet during virtual classes in high school during the coronavirus pandemic.
Her son has failed his lessons; According to the lawsuit, Miss Moss enrolled him in summer school to catch up.
Ms Freeman and Ms Moss are represented in their lawsuit by Protect Democracy, a non-partisan group that works to counter authoritarianism in the United States. Protect Democracy has also sued Project Veritas, a conservative group that conducts covert operations, on behalf of the Pennsylvania postmaster, who was falsely accused of falsifying the election results.
Ms Freeman and Ms Moss did not specify the amount they require from the Hooft brothers. They demanded that compensatory and punitive damages “be determined in court.”