Two former Georgia election workers are suing Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani, One America News Network and several of the network’s top executives for pushing a series of debunked conspiracy theories about the workers' role in the 2020 election that they said put them in physical danger and threatened their livelihoods.
Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, her daughter, worked as poll workers counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Fulton County, Ga., during the November 2020 election. In a lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the two asserted that they became the center of a series of unfounded conspiracy theories pushed by Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who served as an adviser to former President Donald Trump during the 2020 election, as well as several top employees of OAN, the California-based cable news network with close ties to the then-president.
“As a result of their vital service, Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss have become the objects of vitriol, threats, and harassment,” they said in Thursday’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. “They found themselves in this unenviable position not based on anything they did, but instead because of a campaign of malicious lies designed to accuse them of interfering with a fair and impartial election, which is precisely what each of them swore an oath to protect.”
Trump and his allies, who were desperate to find a way to overturn his loss in Georgia last year, quickly spread a litany of conspiracy theories about a rigged election in the state.
One of them involved the Trump campaign posting a clip from OAN in early December, where a woman falsely alleged that a poll worker was pulling ballots out of a suitcase to tip the election toward Joe Biden. The clip was cut from a state legislative hearing, where a team of attorneys for Trump, led by Giuliani, gave a presentation.
Georgia election officials quickly sought to knock that conspiracy down. They were not suitcases full of falsified ballots, but ballot containers that were routinely used.
“The 90 second video of election workers at State Farm arena, purporting to show fraud was watched in its entirety (hours) by [Georgia secretary of state] investigators,” Gabriel Sterling, a senior official in the state’s secretary of state office who became the face of efforts to push back against misinformation from Trump after the election, tweeted at the time. “Shows normal ballot processing.”
Election officials in the state also went through the longer tape with a local TV station the day after the hearing in an effort to debunk the false claims.
But Trump and his allies remained obsessed with the state, and with the lies they have spread about the election workers in Georgia. Trump mentioned Freeman by name in the now-infamous call he had with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January, where he tried to convince the election official to overturn his loss in the state.
Raffensperger refused, and also specifically denied Trump’s claims about Freeman. “I think it’s extremely unfortunate that Rudy Giuliani or his people, they sliced and diced that video and took it out of context,” Raffensperger, a Republican, told the then-president on the call.
Trump had also mentioned Freeman in a statement in April.
Thursday’s complaint argued that Giuliani and OAN pushed claims about Freeman and Moss even after state election officials released statements debunking the allegations. The lawsuit, which names OAN president Charles Herring, founder Robert Herring and the network’s White House correspondent Chanel Rion, noted that well into 2021 OAN continued to broadcast claims that Freeman engaged in election wrongdoing, despite evidence disproving those claims.
“With no concern for the truth or the consequences of their willful conduct, Defendants baselessly portrayed Plaintiffs as traitors who participated in a carefully planned conspiracy to steal the presidential election in Georgia,” the complaint said.
Freeman and Moss said the consequences of the claims have been devastating to their lives. As conspiracy theories about their involvement spread, Freeman said she was forced to shut down her online business and did not return home for months at the recommendation of the FBI.
Charles Herring did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
The lawsuit against OAN and Giuliani came just weeks after the two election workers filed a similar lawsuit against the Gateway Pundit, alleging that the right-wing website engaged in a ”campaign of lies” by continuing to push debunked conspiracy theories about the duo for months.
OAN has faced a series of legal broadsides over its coverage of the 2020 election.
Earlier this year, Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against several conservative news outlets including OAN, saying the network engaged in a “downward spiral of lies, as each broadcaster attempted to outdo the others by making the lies more outrageous, spreading them further, and endorsing them as strongly as possible.” Just a few months later, voting machine company Smartmatic also filed a suit against OAN, arguing that the network knowingly aired false claims that votes on the company’s machines were switched from Trump to Biden.
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