- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2020

Three days after filing a lawsuit against an Indian media company for defamation, Dan Snyder accused a former employee in a federal court filing Monday of contributing to a “deliberate and coordinated campaign” to defame the Washington owner.

In a filing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Snyder accused Mary-Ellen Blair, a former executive assistant, of taking money and coordinating a campaign to damage his reputation.

The new filing says Blair has documents and information that could boost Snyder’s defamation case against Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide, an India-based company that published a series of articles last month that Snyder contends are baseless.

On Friday, Snyder sued MEAWW for publishing stories that suggested he engaged in sex trafficking with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein — an unfounded claim he maintains is false. The stories, now taken down, were published days ahead of a Washington Post story in which 15 former female employees accused five former team officials of sexual harassment.

Snyder, who is seeking $10 million in damages, suggests MEAWW had been paid by unnamed sources to publish the stories.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Joe Tacopina, one of the attorneys representing Snyder, said the NFL owner has witnesses who will provide sworn affidavits and recordings that will prove Blair is “clearly in the pocket of another and complicit in this scheme to defame Mr. Snyder.”

Monday’s filing alleges that Blair, who is described as a “disgruntled employee” after being fired in 2017, contacted current and former employees seeking information that would damage Snyder’s reputation.

During a July 7 phone call with an employee, Blair is said to have suggested that the employee could “probably make a lot of money” for offering damaging information about Snyder, pausing to gauge that person’s reaction, according to the filing. The filing also indicates that Blair made reference to another employee that “something big was going to happen” well before rumors of the Post story — and the publication of it — circulated. 

“What we hope by this filing, obviously the purpose of this filing, is to gather information through the legal channels: Documents … that will aid us in the defamation suit that we filed on the behalf of Mr. Snyder in India,” Tacopina aid.

Lisa J. Banks, Blair’s attorney, told The Washington Times in a statement that Monday’s filing contained “numerous falsehoods” designed to humiliate and intimidate her client. She said Blair has never had any contact with or provided any information to MEAWW or anyone related to Snyder’s lawsuit.

“This filing is an obvious and inappropriate attempt to silence Ms. Blair and others who may wish to communicate with legitimate news organizations about the culture of sexism, harassment and abuse that has existed at the highest levels of the Washington Football team for decades,” Banks said. “Bullying and baselessly disparaging former employees who provide truthful information about their experience with Dan Snyder and his organization will do nothing to repair the reputation he claims in this filing to care so deeply about.”

After being read the statement, Tacopina called Banks’ statement “silly” — saying their pursuit of Blair has nothing to do with the 15 women with the Post story. He said Snyder isn’t suing her, rather it’s about receiving information.

“Typical response to try and blur the issues,” he said, “to try and pretend that because someone may or may not be a victim of sexual harassment they can get caught doing whatever they want. … This has to do all with the categorically false stories that are being printed about Daniel Snyder. And Mary-Ellen Blair is at the forefront.”

MEAWW, meanwhile, has also denied that it accepted any payment for the publication of the articles. Founder Nirnay Chowdhary told the New York Times there were “some sort of errors” in the articles and the website would be launching an investigation to determine what went wrong.

The website published several articles that included headlines like: “Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder faces sex trafficking allegations; Internet says, ‘He was on Epstein’s list,’ and “#RedskinsScandal: Will Dan Snyder rename Washington Redskins the ‘Epsteins’? Angry Internet screams ‘throw him out.’”

Tacopina said Snyder sued the company because of the false connection to Epstein.

“There’s a line that one crosses that is really an inconceivable crossing of the line that is hard to really allow to go unpunished,” Tacopina said, “because there’s probably nothing you could say about someone in this day and age worse than you’re an associate of Jeffrey Epstein. You’re a pedophile. … It’s really the death knelt to anyone’s reputation. And Dan Snyder didn’t deserve that, no matter how nasty his disputes can be with other people.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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