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Two Georgia election workers sue St. Louis-based Gateway Pundit website over false fraud claims

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Protest over statue of St. Louis' namesake

Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit is followed by protesters as he leaves a rally opposing the King Louis IX statue atop Art Hill in Forest Park on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Two Georgia election workers targeted by former President Donald Trump in a vote-rigging conspiracy theory have sued the St. Louis-based Gateway Pundit, calling it one of the “leading purveyors of false information in the United States” and alleging it incited months of death threats and harassment against them.

The defamation suit against the far-right website was filed Thursday in St. Louis Circuit Court by Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a voter registration officer in the Fulton County, Georgia, elections office, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who was a temp worker for the 2020 election. They accused the website of “spreading baseless conspiracy theories and disinformation for fame and fortune.”

The lawsuit names the St. Louis-based website, 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.”

Jim Hoft, his lawyer and The Gateway Pundit did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Joe Hoft did not respond to a comment request.

The lawsuit 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 seeks unspecified damages and revolves around false allegations first raised by a volunteer Trump campaign attorney at a Dec. 3, 2020, 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.

Jim Hoft's tweet on Dec. 3, 2020

Jim Hoft posted this tweet on Dec. 3, 2020, according to a lawsuit filed against him, the Gateway Pundit and his brother Joe Hoft. (Screengrab from lawsuit)

The Gateway Pundit has echoed the baseless theory that Biden stole the 2020 election from Trump.

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, 2020, 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. According to the lawsuit, the site had 7.2 million shares “of its bogus election fraud stories” on social media in the last quarter of 2020 and earned more than $1 million in Google advertising revenue from November 2020 through June.

“The intentional dissemination of known falsehoods aimed at sowing doubt about the integrity of our elections threatens our very ability to function as a democracy,” the suit says. “These falsehoods also destroy the lives of America’s election workers, whose service to our system of government places them in the crosshairs of those who seek to undermine it with their disinformation.”

The women were featured in a Reuters report published Wednesday on their ordeal.

“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.

In February, Twitter suspended Jim Hoft’s account for violating its company rules. Hoft claimed the suspension was brought on by an announcement that his website would release video evidence of voting fraud at the TCF Center in Detroit, where that city’s ballots were counted in November.

Story by Peter Eisler of Reuters with reporting from Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch.

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