Lawsuit Filed Against Chuck C. Johnson, Jim Hoft, Paul Nehlen, Gavin McInnes and Others for Falsely Linking Michigan Men to Charlottesville Attack
After last year’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was murdered when one of the racists deliberately drove a car into a crowd, we reported that a slew of right wing sites immediately and recklessly rushed out articles identifying the wrong person as the perpetrator of the attack.
These irresponsible bloggers included our old pal Chuck C. Johnson (who is NOT ME, and is not really my “pal”) and Jim Hoft (the fabled Stupidest Man on the Internet). And from those two sites the fake story quickly spread throughout the right wing noise network.
Both of these far right bloggers soon deleted their posts, but of course they know very well that once they put this malicious nonsense out on the Internet, the right wing mob will take it and run with it, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop or debunk it from that point; it becomes an article of faith and takes on a life of its own.
The young man falsely identified by these dishonest bloggers and his father were advised by Michigan State Police to leave their home and go into hiding, after they were flooded with death threats.
And this week, they filed a lawsuit against an entire group of these people, including Chuck C. Johnson, Jim Hoft, Gavin McInnes and Paul Ryan’s white nationalist primary challenger Paul Nehlen, seeking damages for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Joel Vangheluwe and Jerome Vangheluwe named GotNews and its editor and founder Charles Johnson as defendants in a complaint filed Wednesday in Detroit federal court. They are represented by Dallas attorney Andrew Sommerman and Clinton Township, Mich., attorney Raechel Badalamenti.
The lawsuit claims GotNews falsely reported that Jerome’s son Joel was the driver of the Dodge Challenger used to plow into anti-fascist protestors at the “Unite the Right” rally last August in Charlottesville, Va.
In fact, James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, was the suspect. Fields faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with the attack that killed 32-year-old legal assistant Heather Heyer and injured 19 others.
At the time of the attack on Aug. 12, 2017, the Vangheluwes say they were hosting a family wedding at their home when their social media and email accounts were inundated with messages after GotNews published a story that falsely linked Joel to the attack.
“Defendants used the Vangheluwes as political pawns, shifting the blame from alt-right extremists to an innocent 20-year-old boy who never owned or drove the car in question,” the filing states.
GotNews reported it had obtained evidence that Joel, who the outlet described as an anti-Trump drug user, was the owner of the Dodge Challenger. The publication made the tenuous link after searching for the license plate number of the Dodge Challenger and discovering it was under Jerome Vangheluwe’s name. It then scanned social media and leaped to the conclusion that Joel owned the car based on an image of the vehicle found on Facebook.
“Joel likes taking drugs and getting stoned, a look at his social media shows. What [sic] he under the influence when he crashed into the crowd at Charlottesville?” the article stated, according to the lawsuit.
It’s about time these far right operatives faced some consequences for their malicious and reckless behavior. I applaud the Vangheluwes for taking this step; they have a very good chance of winning the suit because they’re not public figures and this was a clear act of pure malice.
Here’s the lawsuit document filed in a federal district court in Michigan:
At Snopes, reporter Bethania Palma has a quote from the attorney for the Vangheluwes, who’s really not OK with this right wing fake news thing that’s going around:
We’ve all recently heard about this concept of ‘fake news.’ This is the real fake news, trying to tie wrong party affiliations with political acts. Jerome Vangheluwe sold the car years before the attack, and the car had passed through multiple buyers. Both of my clients are residents of Michigan, and the car in question had an Ohio license plate. The incident occurred in Virginia. There was no credible evidence to even suggest the Vangheluwes were responsible … My clients received death threats and feared for their safety and the safety of their family. The alt-right media was trying to create a narrative that someone other than a member of an alt-right organization was the one behind this terrorist attack.