Two Georgian election officials on Thursday filed a defamation complaint against a conservative website, accusing it of knowingly posting and spreading false stories saying they engaged in voter fraud in the 2020 general election.
Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a mother and daughter, have filed a lawsuit against The Gateway Pundit, its owner Jim Hoft and his brother Joe Hoft, a contributor to the site. Among other things, the lawsuit says the website and the Hofts waged a “campaign of lies” that led to online and in-person harassment against the two women.
The lies “not only devastated their personal and professional reputations, but sparked a deluge of intimidation, harassment and threats that forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts and fear for their safety. physical “, according to the lawsuit.
In response to a call to a cell phone number listed for Jim Hoft, the Associated Press received a text message saying, “Sorry, I can’t speak now.” No one responded to a voice or SMS message sent to this number. A job number for Joe Hoft could not be located. No one responded immediately to a request for comment sent through an online form on The Gateway Pundit’s website.
Angered by his small loss in a traditionally Republican state, former President Donald Trump focused scrutiny on Georgia, making unproven claims that widespread fraud there led to his downfall in the state.
A representative of Trump’s legal team, Jacki Pick, spoke to a Georgia State Senate committee on December 3, 2020 and showed part of surveillance video from the room where the ballots were taken. were counted at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. She said Republican observers were asked to leave the room late on election night and that once they left, election officials withdrew and counted the hidden and fraudulent ballots, according to the lawsuit.
Pick did not name the election workers in the video, “but said” one of them had the name Ruby somewhere on his shirt, “” the lawsuit says. Later that day, The Gateway Pundit was the first outlet to publish Freeman’s full name, and in a subsequent story it also identified Moss, according to the lawsuit.
The allegation that “suitcases” of ballot papers were removed from under tables out of sight of observers was almost immediately debunked. But it continues to circulate among supporters of the former president and others who say the election was tainted with fraud.
The Gateway Pundit and the Hofts continued the debunked narrative, posting stories and promoting them on social media even after knowing it had been refuted, according to the lawsuit. Among other things, according to the lawsuit, their stories accused Freeman and Moss of conspiring to get observers out of a room where the ballots were counted, adding illegal ballots to the count and passing the same ballots through. through scanners several times.
In a phone call with Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, Trump urged the Republican official to “find” votes for him and mentioned Freeman by name, calling her a “vote con artist, professional vote scammer and scammer ”.
Freeman worked as a temporary election worker during the 2020 election, verifying signatures on mail ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed. Moss has worked for the Fulton County Elections Department since 2012 and oversaw the postal ballot operation in last year’s election.
As the allegations against her began to spread, Freeman received hundreds of threatening emails, texts and phone calls, and strangers showed up at her home, according to the lawsuit. The FBI concluded on Jan.6 that she would not be safe at home, and she moved out for two months. She had to ditch her pop-up clothing store because she had to shut down her social media accounts and couldn’t attend the events in person.
Moss’s teenage son was bombarded with threatening and racist messages after stalkers tracked down his old phone number, which he took back, according to the lawsuit. Because she had already lived with her grandmother, according to the lawsuit, strangers showed up at least twice at her grandmother’s house and tried to enter to carry out a “citizen arrest”. Moss liked the parts of her job that involved interacting with the public, but now becomes anxious if they ask her name, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court, where The Gateway Pundit is based, seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal costs. He is also asking a judge to declare that the statements published by the website and the Hofts and mentioned in the lawsuit are false and to order the removal of the false and defamatory statements from any website or social media account they control. .