A U.S. State Department employee on hand during the deadly automobile attack in Charlottesville last summer has filed a federal defamation lawsuit over articles published about him afterwards by outlets including popular far-right websites Infowars and Gateway Pundit.
The Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center filed suit in Charlottesville federal court Tuesday on behalf of Brennan Gilmore, a Foreign Service Officer who became the subject of online conspiracy theories in the wake of witnessing a car plow into a crowd of counterprotesters on the day of the “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12, 2017.
Mr. Gilmore recorded the incident with his smartphone and subsequently shared the footage on social media, spurring theories propagated by websites including Infowars and Gateway Pundit allegedly responsible for a barrage of ongoing threats and harassment, according to his attorneys.
“Within twenty-four hours of uploading his video onto Twitter, the Defendants’ first blog posts about Mr. Gilmore appeared online, accusing him of being a CIA or ‘deep state’ operative,” his attorneys wrote.
“There can be no doubt that the Defendants reached hundreds of thousands of viewers and readers with their publications. Their paranoid fantasies have no basis whatsoever in fact and are demonstrably false.”
Specifically the lawsuit lists as defendants Alex Jones, his Infowars website and its parent company, Free Speech Systems, LLC; former Breitbart News writer Lee Stranahan; Infowars reporter Lee Ann McAdoo; Gateway Pundit publisher Jim Hoft; former U.S. Congressman Allen B. West; and bloggers Scott Creighton and Derrick Wilburn.
In one article in the Gateway Pundit, Mr. Hoft that called Mr. Gilmore a “Deep State Shill Linked to George Soros.”
“Defendants’ use of Mr. Gilmore as a tool for their agenda had immediate, tangible consequences for Brennan and his family,” his attorneys alleged. “A list of Brennan and his parents’ known addresses was posted online, prompting local law enforcement to patrol his parents’ home. Brennan suffered from an overwhelming volume of hate mail and death threats, hacking attempts, and even in-person harassment on the streets of Charlottesville.”
The lawsuit seeks damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs to be determined at trial.
Mr. Jones told The Washington Times that he believed the litigation is “part of a Democratic Party strategy to misuse the courts … to try to shut down the media organizations they don’t agree with.”
“It’s just an absolute targeting,” Mr. Jones said Tuesday.
Mr. Hoft, meanwhile, made similar allegations against the Democratic Party in a statement of his own.
“This is how Democrats attack prominent conservative voices,” he said Tuesday, adding that the lawsuit was “based on complete lies.”
“We will not be bullied by these far left attack dogs,” said Mr. Hoft.
One person was killed and more than a dozen injured after a motorist drove into a crowd of counterprotesters on the afternoon of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Police identified the driver as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio and have charged him with murder and other counts in connection with the incident.