(Reuters) – Two Georgia election workers targeted by former U.S. President Donald Trump in a vote-rigging conspiracy theory have sued a far-right website that trumpeted the false story, alleging it incited months of death threats and harassment against them.
The defamation suit against The Gateway Pundit was filed Thursday by Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a voter registration officer in the Fulton County elections office, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who was a temp worker for the 2020 election. The women were featured in a Reuters report published Wednesday on their ordeal.
The lawsuit names the Pundit, its founder and editor Jim Hoft, and his brother, writer Joe Hoft. It alleges they repeatedly published demonstrably false claims that portrayed the women as “traitors” who conspired to “steal the presidential election in Georgia.”
A lawyer for Jim Hoft and The Gateway Pundit did not immediately respond to a comment request Thursday morning. Joe Hoft did not respond to a comment request.
The lawsuit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, alleges that the Pundit’s “lies” about Freeman and Moss “devastated” their reputations and “instigated a deluge of intimidation, harassment, and threats that has forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts, and fear for their physical safety.” the suit says. Freeman went into hiding.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, revolves around false allegations first raised by a volunteer Trump campaign attorney at a Dec. 3 hearing of Georgia state legislators. Freeman and Moss worked in heavily Democratic Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, where a strong showing by Democrat Joe Biden helped give him a narrow Georgia victory.
Trump, a Republican, and his surrogates falsely alleged that Freeman and Moss pulled “suitcases” full of fake ballots for Biden and processed them late at night on Election Day, Nov. 3, after most poll workers and election observers left.
State officials including Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger quickly and forcefully debunked the allegations, explaining that the “suitcases” were standard ballot containers and the votes were properly counted under the watch of an independent monitor and a state investigator.
The Gateway Pundit covered the false allegations in multiple stories, including one that identified Freeman by name with the headline: “What’s Up, Ruby? Crooked Operative Filmed Pulling Out Suitcases of Ballots in Georgia IS IDENTIFIED.” The Pundit identified Moss in another story.
The Pundit stories continued through the summer, even as multiple audits and reviews confirmed the accuracy of Fulton County’s vote results.
“I couldn’t have imagined the lies that The Gateway Pundit would tell about me, pushing people to harass me and my family and to threaten us with violence,” Freeman said in a statement issued by her lawyers.
(Reporting by Peter Eisler; editing by Brian Thevenot)