It was about a year ago when the nightmare began for a clerical worker in a county election office in Georgia and her mother. Donald Trump and some of his rabid followers decided that Shaye Moss and mother, Ruby Freeman, who'd taken a temp job helping count 2020 ballots, were directly and personally responsible for including fake ballots in Georgia's election tally.
In fact, unhinged Republicans claimed to have proof in the form of a video in which Moss and Freeman could be seen doing their jobs. What conspiracy theorists said were "suitcases" of bogus ballots were really just standard boxes used locally to transport actual ballots.
The video — which showed nothing nefarious or untoward — nevertheless made the rounds in conservative media and in far-right circles, with Republicans insisting that the images showed election fraud, reality be damned. Trump even put it on screen during one of his post-defeat political rallies. In fact, the former president went after the two Black women, by name, repeatedly, which in turn led Republican activists to threaten the women's lives and show up at their homes.
Freeman, a retiree who started a small boutique business selling fashion accessories, was forced to flee her house, close her business, and move to an undisclosed location on the advice of the FBI for her own safety. Her daughter dramatically changed her appearance so people wouldn't recognize her and started avoided going out in public.
These women, who'd done nothing wrong, were terrorized, in part because of a ridiculous lie, and in part because Trump's followers helped expose them, putting them at risk.
This week, as The Washington Post reported, the women filed a lawsuit.
Two women who were Georgia election workers in 2020 are suing the far-right conspiracy website Gateway Pundit for defamation, alleging that the site and its owners knowingly published false stories about them that instigated a relentless campaign of harassment and threats.
According to their lawsuit, on Jan. 6, as Trump's followers launched an attack against the U.S. Capitol, other Trump followers surrounded Freeman's home, unaware that she'd already fled.
"Lies like those that The Gateway Pundit knowingly told about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss cannot be divorced from the devastation they leave behind — both for the targeted individuals and for our democracy itself," Brittany Williams, an attorney with the nonprofit Protect Democracy, which is representing the women, said in a statement.
For those unfamiliar with the website, the Post's report added, "For years, Gateway Pundit has promoted a dizzying array of falsehoods, including the conspiracy theory that students who had survived the Parkland, Fla., school shooting were paid 'crisis actors'; the baseless claim that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and stories incorrectly identifying the gunman in the 2017 Las Vegas concert mass shooting and the driver who killed a woman who was protesting a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville."
The New York Times added that the right-wing website, which "published dozens of false stories" about Moss and Freeman, acknowledged the lawsuit yesterday and asked readers to send them money to help finance a legal defense.
This is a case worth watching.