Judge considering motion to dismiss InfoWars defamation suit
Attorneys for InfoWars founder Alex Jones and other defendants argued that a defamation case brought against them by an Albemarle County man should be dismissed in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville on Tuesday.
Brennan Gilmore, an activist and former Foreign Service officer, sued Jones, InfoWars and several others in March for defamation.
After Gilmore witnessed and filmed the Aug. 12, 2017 car attack that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, the defendants started spreading conspiracies about him, leading to death threats against him and his family, according to the suit.
Attorneys representing the defendants said the case should be dismissed, taking issue with the court’s jurisdiction to try the case and claiming Gilmore was a limited-purpose public figure in the wake of the attack.
In addition to Jones and InfoWars, the complaint names Free Speech Systems LLC; Lee Stranahan; Lee Ann McAdoo; Scott Creighton; James Hoft; former Rep. Allen B. West, R-Georgia and Derrick Wilburn as defendants.
Along with being owner and publisher of the Infowars website, Jones runs radio and internet shows linked to the site. Stranahan, a former Breitbart News employee, was featured in a video on Infowars and made defamatory statements about Gilmore, according to the complaint. McAdoo wrote an article published on Infowars that Gilmore alleges contains false statements about him.
Creighton and Hoft both run blogs that ran stories containing false statements about Gilmore, according to the suit. Creighton is owner and author of American Everyman, and Hoft operates Gateway Pundit.
The complaint also states that West and Wilburn are responsible for an article containing false statements about Gilmore that was published on West’s website.
Andrew M. Grossman, the attorney representing Jones and InfoWars, said the two videos Gilmore alleges defame him contain few references to him and have already been removed by YouTube. He also argued that the language of the videos, which alleged some leftist protesters had planned to use Heyer’s death to launch a coup against President Donald Trump, used “obvious hyperbole” common on any cable news network and should not be taken seriously.
He also argued that Gilmore was a limited-purpose public figure when InfoWars published the content. If the judge accepts the defense’s claim that Gilmore was a public figure at the time, Gilmore will have to prove actual malice on the part of the defendant, instead of just negligence.
Grossman based his claim that Gilmore was a public figure on several stories Gilmore published after witnessing the attack, including a ProPublica piece that ran before the InfoWars videos.
One of Gilmore’s attorneys, Brianne Gorod, argued that he was not a public figure, but a man who witnessed a moment in history. She said the defendants departed from journalistic standards by publishing the alleged defamatory content and made “black and white” factual errors in their reporting.
“Opinion is not a shield from liability,” Gorod said.
Judge Norman K. Moon heard from two other attorneys representing the remaining defendants, both whom claimed the defamation suit was a violation of their clients’ First Amendment rights.
Following the arguments, Moon left on a recess and did not rule on the motions. It was unclear Tuesday when Moon would rule on the dismissal.
Outside of the courthouse, Gilmore addressed members of the press.
“I just want to ensure that no one else suffers the same way I have,” he said.