Boebert asks federal court to dismiss defamation case
(Colorado Newsline) Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert asked a federal court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against her by a North Carolina political activist.
The Silt Republican said Tuesday in a motion to dismiss the case that the plaintiff failed to state a legally sufficient claim and that statements by her that form the basis of the lawsuit are protected by the First Amendment. She also said a new Colorado law that protects people who exercise First Amendment rights from the threat of lawsuits — known as an anti-SLAPP law — calls for the case to be dismissed.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint reflects an ill-advised attempt to regulate the political arena through a strategic lawsuit,” Boebert’s motion says. “Because the First Amendment shields speech made in the ‘highly charged atmosphere’ of ‘an intense political campaign’ from judicial scrutiny … Plaintiffs’ Complaint fails as a matter of law and must be dismissed with prejudice.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado by David Wheeler, who last year publicized information about Boebert in an effort to derail her reelection bid, and the super PAC American Muckrakers, of which he is president. Wheeler, a Democrat, is a 2024 candidate for North Carolina insurance commissioner.
Wheeler previously brought a similar lawsuit against Boebert in a North Carolina state court last year, but the judge dismissed the case, saying that the proper venue for it was in Colorado. He filed the Colorado suit in June.
Wheeler and Muckrakers, citing sources close to Boebert, published information about Boebert that appeared to run counter to her political stance against abortion, among other allegations. The most notable release of information came in a June 14 press release that attracted national media attention. The group’s claims about Boebert in some cases lacked corroborating evidence or were shown to be false.
Wheeler stands by his allegations that Boebert once worked as a paid escort, had two abortions and used illegal drugs. His defamation suit claims Boebert made “maliciously false statements” about him and American Muckrakers on multiple occasions in media appearances last summer as she pushed back against his allegations, such as when she accused Wheeler of publishing “false statements knowing they were completely fabricated.”
Boebert in her Tuesday motion discusses Wheeler’s allegations at length.
Her statements in defense of herself, such as when she cited Wheeler’s “lies” and stated that his allegations were “completely baseless,” were “reasonable and truthful defenses against Muckrakers and Mr. Wheeler’s extraordinary attacks,” the motion says.
The document addresses specific allegations. Wheeler’s suit accuses her of having used illegal drugs. Her motion alludes to this allegation several times but specifies only that “Wheeler has produced no evidence that Representative Boebert has used illegal drugs” and that she has never been “a drug addict.” Wheeler claimed Boebert once worked as an unlicensed paid escort. Boebert’s motion in several instances exchanges reference to being an “escort,” a legal activity, with being a “prostitute,” an illegal one that doesn’t appear in Wheeler’s allegations.
Newsline sent messages seeking comment from Boebert’s team on Tuesday but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.
A substantial section of Boebert’s motion makes the argument that her statements against Wheeler last year constituted legal “hyperbole,” not defamation.
“Representative Boebert’s statements were made in the context of a heated, partisan, reelection campaign,” it says, noting as a comparison that “The First Amendment was adopted, after all, by colonists whose first major protest of the Stamp Act was to burn effigies of British politicians in central Boston.” She concludes, “Accusations of falsehoods are, for good or ill, a time-worn aspect of American political campaigns. Listeners hear such accusations for what they are: rhetoric, not defamation.”
Wheeler said in an email to Newsline that Boebert’s motion is “full of falsehoods.”
“Boebert doesn’t seem to have read our complaint, nor listened to any of the recordings, nor read the text message or emails we provided as exhibits in our complaint,” Wheeler said. “The recordings, emails, text messages, and other information provided by named sources were the basis for the allegations that she had abortions, was a paid escort, and used drugs and they are named in our complaint.”
Boebert, who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, was elected in November to a second term, and she is running for reelection in 2024.
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