Conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe filed suit for defamation this morning against Al Gore's CurrentTV, as well as "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann and guest host David Shuster, for falsely referring to O'Keefe as a "convicted felon" and falsely reporting that O'Keefe had been accused of rape.
O'Keefe has not been charged with a felony, much less convicted of a felony, and he has not been accused of any inappropriate sexual or even physical contact. Both facts are a matter of public court record, and therefore the statements by Current TV, Olbermann and Shuster likely amount to defamation with actual malice.
According to the complaint (after the jump):
- On December 22, 2011, during a broadcast of his "Countdown" program on Current TV, Olbermann claimed that O'Keefe was a "convicted felon" on "federal parole after he was charged with [a] felony for attempting to maliciously interfere with Senator [Mary] Landrieu's office telephone system in New Orleans." In fact, O'Keefe had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of entering a federal building under false pretenses. The government stipulated that "further investigation did not uncover any evidence" that O'Keefe and his associates had intended "to actually tamper with the phone system, or to commit any other felony." O'Keefe was not imprisoned and is not on parole.
- On February 24, 2012, Shuster--filling in for Olbermann--likewise claimed that O'Keefe is a "convicted felon."
- On the same December 22, 2011 broadcast referenced above, Olbermann reported that O'Keefe was facing a complaint by Nadia Naffe, who accused O'Keefe of harassment. Olberman and his guest noted that Naffe had made no accusations of physical contact or allegations of rape against O'Keefe. The complaint had been dismissed the day before, on December 21, 2011.
- Regardless, on the February 24, 2012 broadcast, Shuster claimed that there is a "rape allegation facing...conservative activist...James O'Keefe."
James told me over the phone, on the eve of his filing:
It is abhorrent that Emmy award winners can contradict legal facts when citizen journalists are required to release full, unedited material -- which I have always done by the way -- to corroborate every claim that I make. I welcome criticism and even misguided hatred. But, if they call me a felon, if they call me a rapist, or any other disgusting, libelous, ridiculous thing, I will bring them into a courtroom, I will depose them, I will get access to their e-mails. I don't care how many golden statues they have, I don't care how many Emmies, Pulitzers they have. We will bring them to justice.
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