(Reuters) – Two Georgian election operatives who were the target of electoral fraud conspiracy theories sued far-right One America News Network, its top executives and the former president’s ex-lawyer Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani for allegedly spreading lies about them.
The libel lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, DC on Thursday by Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a voter registration officer in Fulton County, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who was a temporary employee for the 2020 elections.
The lawsuit targets San Diego-based Herring Networks, which owns and operates One America News Network, as well as the chain’s CEO Robert Herring, President Charles Herring and reporter Chanel Rion.
Giuliani, Trump’s former personal lawyer, was also named as a defendant. Giuliani has appeared on NAO programs frequently and has been one of the biggest proponents of Trump’s false claims that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.
The complaint alleges that OAN aired stories in which Moss and Freeman were falsely accused of plotting to produce secret batches of illegal ballots and running them through voting machines to aid the candidate of the time, Joe Biden, to defeat Trump.
There is no evidence to support such claims, which have been repeatedly refuted by Georgian election officials.
In a brief interview, OAN chief executive Robert Herring Sr. told Reuters he was not concerned about the lawsuit and that his network had done nothing wrong.
“I know all about it and I laugh,” he said of the trial. “I don’t care about the other four or five chasing me. Eventually, it will light up against them and go the other way.
Charles Herring, Rion and Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The libel lawsuit is the second filed this month by Moss and Freeman, who also sued the Gateway Pundit, alleging that the far-right website’s unfounded reports spurred months of death threats and harassment at against them.
The Gateway Pundit did not immediately respond to an email sent through its website seeking comment.
In addition to removing reports of Freeman and Moss from OAN websites and other media channels, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
The OAN and Gateway Pundit lawsuits both revolve around false allegations first raised by a volunteer Trump campaign lawyer during a Dec. 3 hearing of Georgia state lawmakers. Freeman and Moss worked in the heavily Democratic County of Fulton, which includes Atlanta, where a strong performance from Biden helped give the Democrat a narrow victory in Georgia.
Trump, a Republican, and his surrogates used surveillance video of the vote count at State Farm Arena to falsely accuse Freeman and Moss of handling “suitcases” full of fake ballots for Biden late at night on Election Day, November 3, 2020, after most election officials and election observers have left.
According to the complaint, Giuliani then “amplified the video by posting about it on social media,” while “OAN, its hosts and staff” took Giuliani’s claims and “posted them to millions of viewers and of readers “.
State officials, including Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, quickly and forcefully denied the allegations, explaining that the “suitcases” were standard ballot boxes and that the votes were correctly counted under the supervision of an observer independent and a state investigator.
Giuliani falsely claimed that the video footage showed the two women engaging in “surreptitious illegal activity” and acting suspiciously, like drug dealers “distributing drugs”.
In early January, Trump himself named Freeman 18 times in a phone call in which he urged Georgian officials to change the state’s performance. He described Freeman as a “famous political agent” who “stuffed the ballot box”.
Additional reporting by John Shiffman in Washington