Democratic presidential candidate and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit last week against Hillary Clinton over statements the former Secretary of State made during an interview characterizing Gabbard as a Russian asset. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks more than $50 million in damages as well as an award of punitive damages for alleged damage to Gabbard’s professional and personal reputation.
Clinton’s allegedly defamatory comments are merely part of an ongoing feud between the politicians that dates back at least until 2016. According to the lawsuit, Clinton has sought revenge on Gabbard ever since Gabbard endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Clinton, who the lawsuit refers to as a “cutthroat politician,” made the allegedly slanderous statements as “retribution” for Gabbard’s “perceived slight,” the lawsuit claims.
Clinton made the allegedly defamatory remarks in October 2019 during an interview on the “Campaign HQ With David Plouffe” podcast. In the course of the interview, Clinton said while discussing the 2020 Democratic presidential race:
They’re also going to do third-party again. I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset, I mean totally.
Clinton does not explicitly mention Gabbard during her remarks which are quoted in the lawsuit. To establish that Clinton was referring to Gabbard, the lawsuit points to an interview Clinton’s official spokesperson, Nick Merrill, gave the day after the podcast was released. In that interview, when explicitly asked whether the comment referred to Gabbard, Merrill replied, “If the nesting doll fits.”
According to the lawsuit, “Clinton’s Defamatory Statements spread like wildfire across the Internet, and took on a life of their own” with “[m]illions of Americans” hearing or reading Clinton’s claims that Gabbard was a “Russian asset” and “the favorite of the Russians.” To establish the harm caused by the comments, the lawsuit claims that “[s]cientifically conducted opinion surveys have shown that Clinton’s false, malicious statements about Tulsi were accepted as true by millions of Americans, including large numbers of voters in battleground Presidential primary states.”
Because Gabbard is a public figure and the comments at issue are on a matter of public concern, she will need to establish that Clinton acted with “actual malice” in order to prevail in her slander claims. Allegations aimed at establishing this, claim that “[d]espite calls from Tulsi and other public figures to correct the record, Clinton did not retract the Defamatory Statements. Nor did she apologize for the Defamatory Statements.” The lawsuit claims that, before filing suit, Gabbard wrote Clinton and “asked Clinton to retract the Defamatory Statements.” In response, the lawsuit claims that “Clinton refused to retract the Defamatory Statements and instead stood by them. She continues to stand by them. She refuses to apologize.”
The suit argues that Clinton’s defamatory remarks “started a damaging whisper campaign based on baseless, but vicious, untruths” which has caused Gabbard to “lose potential donors and potential voters.” The complaint estimates that the actual personal and professional damages to her reputation exceed $50 million. Gabbard also argues for an award of “special and punitive damages… in view of Clinton’s malicious and unrepentant conduct” on top of the actual damages.
The goal of the lawsuit, according to the complaint, is to hold Clinton and other “political elites” accountable for “distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election.”
A copy of the full complaint is available here.
Whether you are being accused of defaming someone or you believe that someone else has defamed you, it is important to consult an experienced slander law and cyber-smear law attorney. Our DuPage County defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to address matters of public concern. Our results speak for themselves. Here you can read a federal court decision where we successfully defended our client against a libel per se claim asserting the innocent construction defense and arguing that the statements were nonactionable opinion. We also recently required a defendant who publicized an allegedly false lawsuit regarding our client to provide an apology and full retraction as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16 million libel per se lawsuit.
Our Lisle and Westmont defamation attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicagoland area including in Wilmette and Evanston who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating websites in order to publish defamatory content about our business clients. Beyond slander and libel law, our Chicago business, commercial, class-action, and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. We serve clients throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area. You can contact us online here or call us on our toll-free number at 833-306-4933 or locally at 630-333-0333