The phrase “fake news” has entered the national lexicon over the past year. A Twin Falls jury will have the opportunity to decide whether spreading fake news should have real consequences.
Last Monday, the Boise law firm of Givens Pursley, LLP, walked into the court clerk’s office in Twin Falls County and paid $221 dollars to file a complaint.
That complaint (thanks to the Idaho Statesman you can view it here) is drawing national headlines and will shortly turn the national spotlight to a courtroom in Magic Valley.
The plaintiff is Chobani, the owner of a massive Greek yogurt plant east of Twin Falls that employees more than 1,000 people in the area. It is the largest yogurt plant in the world.
The defendants are wacky media blowhard Alex Jones and his alt right media empire, Infowars. The complaint notes:
Defendant Alex Jones is no stranger to spurious statements. He has claimed that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The Southern Poverty Law Center described Mr. Jones as “almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.” Mr. Jones has now taken aim at Chobani and the Twin Falls community.
The lawsuit has been assigned to Idaho State court judge Randy Stoker who has been in the media spotlight in connection with his high-profile sentencing of a defendant in the Dietrich High School suit.
The complaint alleges that Jones and Infowars have 1) spuriously linked Chobani’s hiring of refugees to a sexual assault in Twin Falls and 2) republished a false statement linking the Chobani plant to crime and tuberculosis in the area. The complaint specifically cites Alex Jones and Infowars for spreading a story with the headline: “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists”.
At issue, primarily, is Jones’ and Infowars’ attempt to link Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s willingness to hire refugees at his yogurt plant to the recent sexual assault case in Twin Falls involving immigrant minors from Sudan and Iraq. No link has ever been established between Chobani’s hiring practices in Twin Falls and the minors who have been now been sentenced.
Alex Jones has pushed back sharply, telling the Idaho Statesman that he was coming to Boise to appear on radio station KIDO:
“I’m going to be going to Idaho. I’m going to go on that local radio station. I’m going to bring investigative crews there. I am going to show what the locals are doing. I am going to show the Islamicists getting off of the planes. You want a fight? You better believe, baby, you’ve got one.”
Jones also claims, again without any evidence, that liberal billionaire George Soros is behind the Chobani lawsuit.
The suit alleges damages in excess of $10,000, linking the Jones/Infowars claims to consumer boycotts directed against Chobani.
Jones does not have a great recent track record with a jury. Last week he lost a high profile Texas custody case to his ex-wife before a jury 10-2. In that action, his attorney claimed he was a “performance artist” and that his on-air antics were just him “playing a character”. Maybe he’ll try that defense in Twin Falls.
Regardless, expect this suit to draw substantial national coverage. The story has already appeared in virtually every national outlet.
Jones seems committed to claiming that Idaho is collapsing under the weight of migrant extremists. Of course, that is ludicrous.
This case has the potential to do real damage to Idaho’s reputation. Will the focus be on our general willingness to welcome and integrate migrants? Or, will our own homegrown extremists on immigration issues dominate the attention?