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Defamation lawsuit against Boebert heading to a Colorado courtroom, Muckrakers president says


Defamation lawsuit against Boebert heading to a Colorado courtroom, Muckrakers president says

Mar 15, 2023 | 6:11 pm ET
By Quentin Young
Defamation lawsuit against Boebert heading to a Colorado courtroom, Muckrakers president says
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt speaks Sept. 10, 2022, during the Club 20 Western Colorado Candidate Debates at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Boebert debated her opponent Adam Frisch, a Western Slope Democrat. (William Woody for Colorado Newsline)

A North Carolina political activist is preparing to file a lawsuit against U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt in federal court in Colorado, the activist told Newsline.

David Wheeler, president of the American Muckrakers PAC, sued Boebert in a North Carolina state court last year for defamation and malicious prosecution. In January, the judge dismissed the case, saying that the proper venue for it was in Colorado.

Wheeler said he’s heeding the judge’s advice and is poised to bring a similar lawsuit against Boebert in Colorado, though now he plans to file in federal court.

Wheeler said he’s looking to depose Boebert on video about her involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection and numerous other matters related to the case. “It would certainly be in the public interest to be able to see that videotape,” he said.

And the defamation case may be expanded to include more defendants, like Fox News and Sean Hannity, he added.

American Muckrakers is widely credited with damaging the electoral prospects of former Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina after Muckrakers released unflattering video of the congressman, who lost his reelection bid after a primary defeat. The political action committee later turned its attention to Boebert and started publishing information about her with the explicit intention of spoiling her reelection effort.

Boebert spokesperson Ben Stout declined to comment for this story, but he referred Newsline to a CNN article last year that debunked many of Muckrakers’ claims, and he noted that Wheeler was already unsuccessful in the North Carolina case.

Last year, Wheeler and Muckrakers published information they said was gathered from sources close to Boebert, though some of the claims lacked corroborating evidence. They announced that sources revealed personal information about Boebert that appeared to run counter to her political stance against abortion, among other allegations. In subsequent statements and on media appearances, including on Hannity’s show, Boebert accused Wheeler and Muckrakers of publishing “false statements knowing they were completely fabricated,” characterized the statements as “defamation,” and said she was “moving forward with a lawsuit.”

A lawsuit from Boebert never came. But Wheeler’s did. In the North Carolina defamation case, Wheeler said donations to the Muckrakers PAC went into free fall, and his own income, which came solely from Muckrakers, took a huge hit. He also said Boebert engaged in false prosecution after she filed for a temporary protective order against Wheeler and indicated in court documents that he engaged in “physical and verbal threats” against her — allegations he denies. A court in August rejected Boebert’s request for a protection order.

Though some of American Muckrakers’ claims about Boebert turned out to be false, Wheeler stands by the main components of its case against the congresswoman.

He noted that the judge in North Carolina dismissed the case only on the question of jurisdiction.

“He didn’t dismiss it on the merits, and he could have, because that was part of (Boebert’s) request for dismissal,” Wheeler said.

The decision to file in the U.S. District Court of Colorado is largely to get around the question of jurisdiction, he said, since Wheeler expects that if he filed a case in a state court, Boebert would seek to move the case to a federal court.

He said Hannity and Fox News could be defendants in the new defamation claim, because they “went after me pretty heavily,” saying Wheeler knowingly published falsehoods about Boebert.

“How they would know what I was thinking will be the issue,” Wheeler said. “Because everything that we published and put out was based upon what we were told, either in writing in documents or in recorded phone calls.”

Wheeler is working on the case with Denver attorney Dan Ernst, who specializes in defamation.

“We did contact Fox, and specifically the Hannity program. And they were explicitly not responsive. They weren’t open to David’s overtures about correcting the record,” Ernst told Newsline on Wednesday.

Newsline contacted a Fox News communications executive seeking comment but had not received a response by the time of publication.

Among Wheeler’s goals is getting Boebert on record regarding her involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, he said. Boebert allied herself with the mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump that stormed the U.S. Capitol, and Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top White House aide, in congressional testimony identified Boebert as one of a small group of Republican lawmakers who was involved in the beginning stages of talks with Trump officials on how to decertify 2020 election results.

“What was her involvement in that — on the record under oath? Because that goes to the facts of our case,” Wheeler said. “In order to undermine her credibility, we’re going to ask her about all these other issues in her life that we’ve made allegations about.”

Ernst told Newsline that he intends, before filing a new lawsuit, to ask Boebert for a “retraction” of false statements she made about Wheeler, which would go a long way toward resolving the dispute.

If Wheeler does move forward with a suit, Ernst said, one way it will be different than the North Carolina case is that it must account for Colorado’s statute against “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPP. 

The anti-SLAPP law, adopted in 2019, seeks to prevent attempts to silence free speech on a matter of public interest.

Wheeler and Ernst indicated the suit could be filed in federal court in Denver by the end of March.