2:41pm PT by Ashley Cullins, Jeremy Barr
Fox News Host Eric Bolling Sues Journalist for $50M Over Lewd Photo Allegation
Recently suspended Fox News host Eric Bolling is suing journalist Yashar Ali for defamation and is seeking $50 million in damages.
The lawsuit comes just days after Ali wrote an Aug. 4 story for HuffPost claiming that more than a dozen sources told him Bolling sent "an unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message to at least two colleagues at Fox Business and one colleague at Fox News."
On Saturday, Fox News suspended Bolling — recently a host on the talk show Fox News Specialists and Cashin' In and formerly of The Five — amid an investigation into the claims. He has worked at Fox News since 2008.
Ali wrote Wednesday on Twitter that he has received a summons from Bolling and says he stands by his reporting and will protect his sources. In the initial story, Ali says he spoke to 14 sources on the condition of anonymity because they either currently work at the networks, can't speak to press without permission or signed confidentiality agreements.
The summons, which was filed Wednesday in New York state court, says Bolling is seeking both damages and injunctive relief arising from Ali's efforts to injure his reputation through "intentional and/or highly reckless publication of actionable false and misleading statements" about his conduct and character.
HuffPost issued a statement in response to the summons: "Yashar Ali is a careful and meticulous reporter. We stand by his reporting.” Editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen also wrote on Twitter that Ali is a paid freelancer under contract with HuffPost and the outlet has "no hesitation about standing by him financially in this case."
Because Bolling is a public figure, to succeed on a defamation claim he will have to prove Ali either knew the information was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth. He has retained Michael Bowe and Ronald Rossi from Kasowitz Benson Torres — the firm whose name partner Marc Kasowitz reps President Donald Trump. The firm also has ties to ousted Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
In addition to HuffPost, Ali writes for Mother Jones and New York magazines. He has previously worked in politics, having served as deputy chief of staff to then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
Ali has been described in press reports as a "Los Angeles businessman" and was named a "Hillblazer" for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, a term that refers to individuals "who have contributed and/or raised $100,000 or more for Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund and/or the Hillary Action Fund since the launch of this historic campaign on April 12, 2015."
Ali also noted that HuffPost isn't named in the suit. "[H]e is coming after me personally," he tweeted. "I'm a big boy...but very telling."
This suit comes amid an ever-growing legal circus surrounding Fox News and its employees. The allegations span everything from sexual harassment and retaliation to discrimination to publishing fake news.
Fox Business host Charles Payne is also currently suspended pending an investigation into sexual harassment claims. And Fox Sports exec Jamie Horowitz was recently fired amid harassment allegations.
Fox News has not yet replied to a request for comment.