3:30pm PT by Ashley Cullins, Seth Abramovitch
Journalist Targeted by Fox News Anchor Threatens Sanctions If $50M Suit Isn't Dropped
Freelance journalist Yashar Ali is fighting back against a $50 million defamation lawsuit filed by recently suspended Fox News host Eric Bolling — and he has powerhouse litigator Patty Glaser in his corner.
In a letter sent Friday to Bolling's attorney Michael Bowe, and copied to Fox News' executive vp legal and business affairs Dianne Brandi, Glaser demands the suit be dropped immediately.
Because Bolling's summons doesn't specify which false statements he's suing over, Glaser, like many observers in the media, assumed it was sent in response to Ali's Aug. 4 HuffPost story that alleged the host sent "an unsolicited photo of male genitalia" via text message to multiple colleagues.
Ali asked Bowe for comment prior to publication, Glaser says, and his response was that Bolling "recalls no such inappropriate communications, does not believe he sent any such communications, and will vigorously pursue his legal remedies for any false and defamatory accusations that are made."
That's not a denial of the accusations, Glaser argues, especially since Ali asked two very pointed questions that went unanswered: "Has Eric, at any point, sent lewd or inappropriate text messages or emails to Fox News or Fox Business colleagues that were unsolicited?" and "Has Eric ever sent the image of a man's genitalia (whether it was Eric's genitalia or not) to any Fox News or Fox Business colleagues?"
Glaser says Ali did not defame Bolling, and any lawsuit claiming otherwise would be frivolous — especially since the host would likely be considered a public figure and therefore would have to prove the journalist either wrote the story knowing the claims were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.
"Mr. Ali conducted a thorough investigation and verified his information with 14 independent sources," writes Glaser. "Furthermore, truth is always a defense to defamation."
They say a picture is worth a thousand words — but, in this case, it could also be worth a lot of money. Glaser says she welcomes the opportunity to depose Bolling and review his message history, and she's confident Fox's internal investigation will corroborate the article. She also threatened to seek sanctions if the host doesn't drop his lawsuit. (Read the letter in full below.)
It's also significant that Bolling's summons targeted Ali as an individual, not HuffPost. Glaser says that was a "calculated" move to harass and intimidate the writer.
"Continuing litigation will only reveal that Mr. Bolling's lawsuit was filed for public relations purposes and to retaliate against Mr. Ali for uncovering the truth," writes Glaser. "Already, Mr. Bolling's suit has tarnished Mr. Ali's reputation and incited Mr. Bolling's supporters to post racist tirades against Mr. Ali on his Facebook Page."
Glaser, a Republican and a perennial on THR's Power Lawyers list, reps the likes of Keith Olbermann, Rush Limbaugh, Conan O'Brien and recently ousted Fox Sports exec Jamie Horowitz. Bowe, on the other hand, is a member of President Donald Trump's legal team and has also represented a few household Hollywood names including Rihanna and Robert De Niro.
Bowe sent THR a statement Friday in response to the letter: "It is ironic and telling that Ms. Glaser accuses us of a publicity stunt in a letter she has yet to send me and that I learned about from the New York Times. She is right about one thing. No evidence has been produced about these claims, and that is why we filed suit so that the evidence and truth will come out."