"Shitty Media Men" List Creator Attacks "Absurd" Masochism Theory in Defamation Suit

Moira Donegan says that Stephen Elliott can't demonstrate actual malice and ridicules his "too submissive to rape" argument.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer

Moira Donegan, the creator of the "Shitty Media Men" spreadsheet, has previewed how she intends to defeat a defamation lawsuit from Stephen Elliott, a writer who wound up on the list of individuals who allegedly committed sexual misconduct.

Elliott is suing after an anonymous woman featured him as facing "rape accusations, sexual harassment [and] coercion."

On Friday, Donegan's attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote a letter to a New York judge and requested a pre-motion conference in connection with an anticipated motion to dismiss. Kaplan tells the judge that since this case involves speech regarding sexual assaults by powerful men in the media industry, that makes Elliott a public figure who must demonstrate actual malice in order to prevail.

"Mr. Elliott comes nowhere close to satisfying this requirement," writes Kaplan. "To start, he does not allege what role Ms. Donegan played in publishing the relevant statements. In a textbook example of improper pleading, he asserts that various unspecified Defendants defamed him: maybe with Ms. Donegan's involvement, and maybe without it; maybe as part of a conspiracy among anonymous contributors, and maybe not."

Then, there is the issue of whether Donegan published with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.

In Elliott's complaint, he theorized that Donegan was aware of falsity because of his published sexual preferences, "including his preferences as a submissive male in a BDSM context," meaning bondage and discipline, dominance and submission.

" As a factual matter, this 'too submissive to rape' defense is obviously absurd," responds Kaplan. "Regardless, it does not plausibly follow that whoever published or edited Mr. Elliott's entry on the List (a) agreed that BDSM submissives cannot engage in rape; and (b) nonetheless decided to falsely accuse him."

The letter to the judge adds, "Mr. Elliott's only allegation about Ms. Donegan's state of mind is that she has 'hatred of men.' But even if that were true, Mr. Elliott fails to allege why, if Ms. Donegan hates all men, she decided to publish a knowingly false accusation against him. It would make a mockery of the law to hold that any woman charged in a complaint with 'hatred of men' will be presumed to have acted with actual malice in a defamation case like this one."

Finally, Donegan wants to stop all discovery until the judge rules on the dismissal motion. Here's the full letter.