In "Fake News" Era, Meet the Lawyer Taking on Media Titans

Larry Klayman in Power Lawyers-Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Subject

Conservative crusader Larry Klayman is suing various entities — from CNN to Sacha Baron Cohen — on behalf of clients like Joe Arpaio and Roy Moore who say they've been harmed by the irresponsibility of the press.

Larry Klayman has been called a right-wing activist by Wikipedia, a conspiracy theorist by Politico and a pathologically litigious attorney and professional gadfly by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They're meant as pejoratives, but the former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor has no problem with the descriptors.

The 67-year-old attorney has filed countless lawsuits against politicians through Freedom Watch and, before that, Judicial Watch (a name Klayman copied from the West Wing character Harry Claypool, who's reportedly based on him) — and now he has the media in his crosshairs.

He's suing Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS over an interview with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore on Who Is America?; he's trying to stop Blumhouse from portraying former Fox News executive Laurie Luhn as a "pimp" for Roger Ailes in The Loudest Voice; and he's suing multiple media outlets, including CNN and Rolling Stone, on behalf of Joe Arpaio for calling the former sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County a "felon" when he was guilty only of misdemeanors.

Klayman aims to “help clean up the industry, since it clearly will not police itself,” and also has his sights set on big tech. Freedom Watch in August filed a $1 billion class-action complaint against Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple over their alleged "illegal suppression" of conservative media. Says Klayman, "This case is meant to break up the monopoly of the social media giants to further not just competition, but also to end the discrimination against those who their CEOs do not agree with, politically or otherwise.”

He self-identifies as a conservative libertarian but says he’s nonpartisan — noting that in the early aughts he sued President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over illegal mass surveillance. He gained notoriety by filing more than a dozen lawsuits against the Clinton administration. A decade later, after a successful lawsuit against the NSA over its collection of private phone data, he petitioned the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to have President Barack Obama deported.  

"Conspiracies do happen," says Klayman. "It's just two actors agreeing to act in concert to commit illegalities. I am a proud conspiracy theorist."

A version of this story first appeared in the March 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.