A protester who filmed the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally last year in Virginia sued far-right news site InfoWars and its leader Alex Jones on Tuesday, saying the site stoked conspiracy theories that he was working as a “deep state” operative for the government.
Brennan Gilmore, a foreign service officer at the State Department, alleges that Jones, his website and several of its contributors made “false and defamatory” statements by claiming he had an “ax to grind” in recording the event.
The lawsuit, filed by Georgetown University law school’s civil rights clinic on behalf of Gilmore in Virginia district court, alleges the defendants “caused irreparable damage” to Gilmore’s reputation “and threatened his physical and emotional well-being.” The group seeks compensation and punitive damages from Jones and other defendants.
“From Sandy Hook to ‘Pizzagate’ to Charlottesville, Las Vegas and now Parkland, the defendants thrive by inciting devastating consequences with the propaganda and lies they publish as ‘news,’” Gilmore said in a statement. “Today, I’m asking a court to hold them responsible for the personal and professional damage their lies have caused me, and, more importantly, to deter them from repeating this dangerous pattern of defamation and intimidation.”
Gilmore in August filmed portions of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where violence erupted as white supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters. At the rally, he captured video of the moment a vehicle rammed into a large crowd, injuring 19 people and killing one.
InfoWars, a right-wing news site known for peddling unsubstantiated conspiracies, cited Gilmore’s ties to the federal government to allege the existence of a coordinated effort to "orchestrate" the clashes and undermine the President Donald Trump, who faced backlash for his response to the event.
Beyond Jones, the lawsuit implicates the website’s operating company, Free Speech System, InfoWars contributors Lee Ann McAdoo and Lee Stranah, and several other fringe right-wing media figures.
“The First Amendment does not and cannot protect deliberate lies designed to incite incessant harassment and violence against private citizens,” Andrew Mendrala, supervising attorney of the civil rights clinic, said in a statement. “This case is a simple defense of democracy. A well-informed public is essential to a healthy democracy. But a deliberately misinformed public is fatal to it.”