Fox News Host Files SLAPP Suit Against Reporter Who Exposed His Sexting

from the never-a-dull-moment dept

Another day, another SLAPP suit -- but, unfortunately, not much in the way of an anti-SLAPP law to protect against it. As you may have heard recently, Fox News host Eric Bolling was recently suspended by the channel after Yashar Ali reported in the Huffington Post that Bolling had sent "lewd" texts to colleagues at the station, including the ever popular dick pic "unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message." Earlier this week, Bolling announced that he looked forward to clearing his name and apparently he's decided to do that by... suing the reporter Yashar Ali for $50 million.

We don't have the full complaint, but Ali has received a summons, which gives us some information. The notice part reads:

The nature of this action is for damages and injunctive relief based on defamation arising from the defendant's efforts to injure plaintiff's reputation through the intentional and/or highly reckless publication of actionable false and misleading statements about the plaintiff's conduct and character. As a result of the defendant's action, the plaintiff has been substantially harmed.

And...

The relief sought includes, but is not limited to, reputational damages, monetary damages, special damages, punitive damages, costs, fees, injunctive relief and such other relief as is just and proper, in an amount not less than $50 million.

A few important things here. The lawsuit is filed in New York state court, not federal court, and it may stay there as both Bolling and Ali appear to be in the state. As we've noted many times in the past, New York has an embarrassingly weak anti-SLAPP law, something it should really work on fixing (being the "media capital of the world" and all...). Also of note: Bolling is targeting Ali directly and not the Huffington Post, which published his article, or any of the layers of parent companies for HuffPo: AOL and Verizon. It is likely Ali does not have $50 million, though I'm pretty sure that those other companies do. Not that they should or would pay -- but if Bolling is truly seeking $50 million, you'd think he'd target the companies with the actual money, rather than the lowly reporter. The targeting of the reporter alone certainly adds weight to the idea that this is a pure SLAPP suit, targeting a reporter and trying to silence him.

Ali, for his part, stands by his reporting and promises not to be intimidated:

Huffington Post has said it also stands by Ali's reporting, and has "no hesitation" about standing by him financially in the lawsuit, further pointing out that he had a fairly astounding 14 sources for his story. It is true that if the claims were entirely made up they likely would qualify as defamatory, but with that many sources, proving they were made up is not going to be easy. Of course, if the point of the lawsuit is just to create a massive hardship for Ali, that part doesn't matter. And without an anti-SLAPP law to make the plaintiff pay the legal fees, such cases can be overwhelming.

One other element of this is that Bolling's lawsuit might serve another purpose: scaring anyone else (beyond the 14 who have already spoken) from speaking out about potential misdeeds for fear of having that info come out in a lawsuit. That's a separate form of chilling effects created by these kinds of lawsuits, and a problem in and of itself.

It seems quite likely that Ali will seek to have the case tossed out as early as possible, but if it actually goes to discovery, well... I'm not sure Bolling will enjoy opening himself up to that. When people get angry over coverage, filing a defamation lawsuit often is their instinctual reaction -- but it can certainly backfire.


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  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 8:59am

    You are what you text.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Radix, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:09am

    relief as is just and proper

    not less than $50 million

    Pick one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:11am

    All are equal before the law, but those with more money are more equal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:21am

    Ari probaby has pics

    Deleting texts sent, does not remove any copies that someone else received, nor does it delete copies in the services that sent them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LineReadLine, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:27am

    You say this is a SLAPP suit - have you considered the possibility that the original report might actually BE slander? Or is this another "guilty by reason of conservative" situation? Notice that the twitter account says HuffPo "spoke to 14 sources" but not that "14 sources confirmed" anything.

    You automatically believe the reporter and discount the accused in the article above - how about waiting until the facts come out?

    Maybe the original report is just another step in the progressive agenda to take apart Fox News. If you can't counter the message, take out the messengers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      A little defensive there aren't you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:58am

      Re:

      Yep, you keep on believing that 14 sources are wrong. It worked for O'Reilly and Ailes.

      Until it didn't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        LineReadLine, 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:11am

        Re: Re:

        14 anonymous sources who he will protect from disclosure, while providing no proof of the accusations they make, or even confirming what they actually said.

        In other words, trust me, I'm a reporter. And THAT'S never been a problem with media stories recently, right?

        How about some proof? Copy of the message/picture? Date they were sent? The number they were sent from? Whose penis was in the picture even? Did Bolling just forward pictures of Anthony Weiner's junk maybe?

        Or is the expectation of reporting excellence fallen to the point of "someone said this, so it must be true".

        Come on, I could find 14 "anonymous sources" to back up my story about how the earth is shaped like a burrito - it doesn't make the story true or accurate tho...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, clearly someone is lying, right? So, three possibilities:

          1) Yashar Ali faked an entire report with 14 fake sources and got it past his editors to destroy one Fox News host for... reasons 2) Fourteen people either intentionally or by coincidence colluded to tell lies to a reporter take down one Fox News host 3) A man got caught sending unsolicited dick pics and is now denying it

          You are absolutely right that we can't know for certain which is the case without more hard facts. Presumably if Bolling is telling the truth, the lawsuit will move forward and we'll start to get those facts. In the mean time, as far as forming my own opinions about what is likely to be the truth, I'm going to apply Occam's Razor -- and it's pointing square at option #3.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            spoken like Occam's Mohel

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Radix, 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Let's not also forget that he was suspended for *something.*

            All he has to do is tell the world why he was suspended, and then Fox could confirm, and the story would be over...assuming it wasn't actually sexting. Since he hasn't taken these steps, we can conclude one of two things:

            1) The whole story is true, and he's lying.

            2) The actual reason for his suspension is even worse, and admitting it is less desirable than being accused of sexual harassment.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 12:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Let us add to that the observation that it is now common knowledge that Fox encourages, supports, and conceals misogyny and inappropriate behavior toward women.

            See: Roger Ailes
            See: Bill O'Reilly
            See: Bill Cunningham
            See: Sean Hannity
            See: whoever the next one is, and there WILL be more

            So while it's of course unfair to conclude that all men at Fox are misogynist predatory assholes, we should not be in the least bit surprised that some of them are. Surely nobody thinks that the last one's been fired, do they?

            I look forward to discovery, if it gets that far.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Jesse Jenkins, 10 Aug 2017 @ 12:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            There are more than three possibilities.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:31am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Sadly, here you are almost certainly talking into the wind. You make fair points, and the rush by others to call this a definite SLAP suit is an indication of the far too typical rush to judgement that permeates the site.

          Definitely need many more objective facts before taking any position other than an article was published and the subject of the article is challenging it's truthfulness.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh, okay, now we're at the "maybe he just sent OTHER penises to women" defense.

          This is just sad.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          madasahatter (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The simplest conclusion is the 14 sources have provided enough proof and corroboration that only an idiot would not believe the totality of the evidence. Apparently Anthony 'Carlos Danger' Wiener's problems did not resonate with the fool. Many fine sexting disgusting and if enough people are sexted it will leak to someone.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          IAmNotYourLawyer (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 7:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Since Bolling is probably considered a public figure, he'd have to show actual malice by Ali.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._Sullivan

          Ali doesn't have to prove the story was accurate; Bolling needs to show (among other things) that Ali wrote the story "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

          It's a pretty high standard in order to shield reporting on matters of public interest.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      Notice that the twitter account says HuffPo "spoke to 14 sources" but not that "14 sources confirmed" anything.

      Perhaps you should go beyond the Twitter account, and read the actual article being sued over, which explains the nature of the sources and what they said in much greater detail.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/eric-bolling-fox-news-text-messages_us_5984d2bbe4b0cb15b1 be6d65

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ThaumaTechnician (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re:

        Shades of Ken Brockman's "Channel 6 News, Springfield's Emmy-submitted newscast."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        LineReadLine, 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:18am

        Re: Re:

        "The women, who are Bolling’s current and former Fox colleagues, concluded the message was from him because they recognized his number from previous work-related and informal interactions."

        Easy proof then - what was the number? A simple check of who the number belongs to would be, you know, a simple matter of journalistic investigation. Or you could rely on people's recollections instead...

        Imagine what a better story it would be with facts associated with it!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Lol, your desperation is hilarious.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          madasahatter (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I have many colleagues phone numbers stored on my phone with their name. So I know if Fred called or texted me, it is not rocket science.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            JoeCool (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 12:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's true for YOU, but not others. I only have three numbers with the person's name stored in mine, and one of those persons is dead! All the rest are just numbers. It can be a little fun remembering who is who that way, but it's too much like work to add names to them all.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 12:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I wonder what the number of dollars his PR firms pays you to badly troll tech forums. I'm wondering if you regret not getting that amount in advance. You could of course prove me wrong by showing a years worth of W-2 forms from a reputable employer. Imagine how much more credence your garbage posts would have if it had some facts associated with it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      In addition to HuffPost's 14 sources, other news services are finding their own, and other women are coming forward.

      Two current and former Fox News personalities told Philly.com on the condition of anonymity that Bolling never sent lewd messages to them, but that they’ve heard stories about other staffers who has similar interactions with the Fox News host.

      Hours after Fox News announced it was suspending Bolling, Caroline Heldman, a politics professor at Occidental College and frequent guest on the network from 2008 to 2011, claimed the Fox News host made an unspecified number of unsolicited sexual advances to her.

      Nice try though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:42am

      Re:

      "If you can't counter the message, take out the messengers."

      Isn't this lawsuit explicitly doing what the original article could maybe have been kinda doing?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      _but not that "14 sources confirmed" anything._

      No, those would be the 14 sources that gave the information in the first place. How often do you ask someone, "hey, can you confirm saying that thing you just said?"

      You realize that the targets of his behavior are also conservative, as is the network that suspended him over said behavior? Of course these are allegations, but clearly not a story invented from whole cloth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 10 Aug 2017 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      You say this is a SLAPP suit - have you considered the possibility that the original report might actually BE slander? Or is this another "guilty by reason of conservative" situation?

      If you'd read the article, you would know the reasons for the assumption that it's a SLAPP suit. (Hint: they're in the big paragraph in the middle.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Heh, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:32am

    Heh - another "Weiner-Gate" involving texts, male wedding-tackle and politics.

    Wonder if the folks who stood up for Anthony will hew to the defense of Eric this time around. Methinks... not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scote, 10 Aug 2017 @ 9:32am

    "Bolling's lawsuit might serve another purpose: scaring anyone else (beyond the 14 who have already spoken) from speaking out about potential misdeeds"

    This seems pretty clear from the fact that Bolling almost certainly can't win this case on the merits. He's a public figure and has to prove a higher standard of defamation than regular people, so he not actually has to prove that the claims are false, but that Ali **knew** they were false. And there is absolutely no evidence I'm aware of to even suggest that Ali thought the claims were false, let alone prove such a thing.

    So, I'd say this is definately a SLAP suit where Bolling hopes to intimidate Ali and others based on the huge cash demand in the suit. This strikes me as the natural outcome of thin-skinned billionaire Peter Thiel's campaign against freedom of the press.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:11am

    Until

    Truth can NOT be edited..
    And the understanding that HUMANS ARE..
    Weird,
    Stupid,
    Idiots,
    That make Spit throwing Monkeys look CUTE in comparison..
    If you need proof, Goto youtube and the REST of the internet and ASk about Stupid humans..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 10:32am

    Going for discovery?

    he had a fairly astounding 14 sources for his story.

    Maybe he just wants to find out who the 14 are. His possible motives:

    1: "I've only sent 12 pics, two of those sources didn't actually get one- yet."

    2: "I've sent out 15 pics, that means one of them liked it! I must find out who at any cost..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 11:56am

      Re: Going for discovery?

      You're joking, but your premise may be sound. He sued the REPORTER and NOT the newspaper. Why? Because he figured the reporter would have less resources to fight, so he'd probably at least make it to discovery and (he thinks) find out who ratted him out in the crew so he can then make THEIR lives miserable... maybe add them to the lawsuit.

      But that begs the question - has he sent sooooooo many texts out that he can't figure out who the 14 source were? Especially since as noted above, more are coming forward on their own to make similar claims. How many women (and men?) did he send messages/pics to?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2017 @ 1:29pm

    "unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message"

    That reads like an art museum title card...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Robert Freetard (profile), 10 Aug 2017 @ 8:07pm

    What SHOULD happen...

    <defendant>

    Your honor I suggest we proceed straight to dickscovery, I would like to submit as evidence 15 pictures of the plaintiffs penis from my sources, anonymised for their pleasure but with date and time stamps intact.

    A simple subpoena to his (3rd party, no expectation of privacy) phone provider will confirm his sending these pictures at the dates and times indicated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 11 Aug 2017 @ 10:22am

      Re: What SHOULD happen...

      "A simple subpoena to his (3rd party, no expectation of privacy) phone provider will confirm his sending these pictures at the dates and times indicated."

      and his position every 15 minutes from the past seven years, all other text messages he has sent, all calls made and their duration, what kind of phone he has been using, all of the web site URL's he has visited, the apps he has installed, what banking he has been doing...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 11 Aug 2017 @ 6:42am

    How n some years agolong ago?

    Seems like I read this happened Some years ago, 2011, that's 6 1/2 years ago. With all the money paid out by Fox in recent years you would ponder why none of them cashed in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 11 Aug 2017 @ 12:30pm

      Re: How n some years agolong ago?

      iTS FUNNY..
      ALL THIS BS...
      and we KNOW that corps pay for nothing..
      So who ends up Paying?
      TONS of court cases that mean and do nothing, EXCEPT..
      its TAX DEFERRED..Tax Deductible..How to Write off your Lawyers..and put the money in the pocket??

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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