It seemed that it was only a matter of time before someone or some entity got sued over the unsubstantiated and baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems conspired to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Not long after Smartmatic and Dominion themselves threatened legal action, a Dominion employee has filed a defamation and civil conspiracy lawsuit against various right-wing networks and websites, media figures, and the Trump campaign.
Dr. Eric Coomer filed the lawsuit in the Denver County district court, claiming that defendants conspired to defame him and intentionally inflict “severe” emotional distress, leading him to be falsely branded as a “traitor” and subjected to “multiple credible death threats.” Coomer sued the Trump campaign, “Kraken” attorney Sidney Powell and her firm, Rudy Giuliani, One America News Network and its correspondent Chanel Rion, Newsmax, Jim Hoft and The Gateway Pundit, Colorado businessman Joseph Oltmann, Michelle Malkin, and Eric Metaxas.
You may have seen an image online claiming that Coomer, the Director of Product Strategy and Security for Dominion, conspired with “Antifa activists” to ensure that Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States.
According to the lawsuit, it stems from a conspiracy “fabricated” by Oltmann, who is described as a “political activist and supporter of President Trump with ambitions of creating a political movement.” The lawsuit said Oltmann waited until after the election was called for Biden to claim that he had special knowledge of an Antifa-Coomer plot to steal the election.
“Oltmann serves as a co-host of the Conservative Daily Podcast under the name Joe Otto with videos also posted on Conservative Daily’s YouTube channel,” the lawsuit said. “After the results of the election were called for President-Elect Joe Biden, Oltmann co-hosted a Conservative Daily Podcast. On that podcast, he alleged to have learned almost two months earlier of a conspiracy to elect the president of the United States. Oltmann claimed he gained this information after infiltrating Antifa.”
“Despite his interest in the election and prolific podcasting schedule, Oltmann apparently took no action at that time to report this alleged threat to democracy,” the lawsuit went on. According to the complaint, Oltmann said the following on his podcast on Nov. 9:
Let’s not sugar coat this, we’re going to expose someone inside of Dominion Voting Systems specifically related to Antifa and related to someone that is so far left and is controlling the elections, and his fingerprints are in every state. So I want you guys to understand that what we’re about to show you, you have to share . . . The conversation will be about a man named Eric Coomer. C-O-O-M-E-R.
After the election, Oltmann claimed that he had “infiltrated an Antifa conference call” two months earlier and recalled someone asking “Eric […] the Dominion guy”: “What are we gonna do if f-ing Trump wins?”
The purported response to that was the origin of the quote attributed to Coomer: “Don’t worry about the election, Trump is not gonna win. I made f-ing sure of that. Hahahaha.” Coomer’s lawyers said that Oltmann has “[a]t no point […] contacted Dr.Coomer to confirm his involvement in this purported call,” but instead made “baseless and unequivocally false” claims that Coomer conspired to rig the election:
Finding no credible evidence of Dr. Coomer’s involvement in the purported “Antifa Conference Call,” Oltmann, instead, used posts on Dr. Coomer’s Facebook profile that were critical of President Trump to allege he was the anonymous “Eric.” Having no credible evidence of voter fraud, Oltmann used Dr. Coomer’s position and employment with Dominion to allege Dr. Coomer was a key figure in a high-level conspiracy to rig the election against President Trump. These statements are baseless and unequivocally false. Dr. Coomer has no knowledge of this alleged “Antifa Conference Call;” Dr. Coomer did not participate in such an alleged call; Dr. Coomer did not make the comments Oltmann alleged were made; and Dr. Coomer did not take steps to subvert the results of the presidential election.
The lawsuit acknowledged that Coomer was critical of Trump on Facebook and had shared satire on the private Facebook account, but said Coomer “did not participate in political groups and did not donate to campaigns.”
“Dr. Coomer worked with elections officials—Republican, Democratic, and independent—across the country to make sure the process was safe,” the suit said. “The ability to have a political opinion in this country is a protected right. It remains a protected right, even if critical of a sitting president. That criticism does not denote conspiracy or fraud.”
Days later, President Donald Trump himself amplified claims about Dominion, citing Chanel Rion and OAN.
From here, the Coomer lawsuit attempted to trace the spread of these various claims across right-wing media, documenting the threats that ensued. The lawsuit repeatedly said that the defendants did not attempt to verify that what Oltmann was saying was true before taking his “Antifa Conference Call” claims and running with them.
Nov. 13: Gateway Pundit publishes on Coomer, and Michelle Malkin interviews Oltmann.
On November 13, 2020, Gateway Pundit published an article by James “Jim” Hoft to its website with the headline: “Dominion Voting Systems Officer of Strategy and SECURITY Eric Coomer Admitted in 2016 Vendors and Election Officials Have Access to Manipulate the Vote.” In this article, Hoft and Gateway Pundit developed Oltmann’s story by adding photo and video, additional context, and links to ostensibly related content. They rely on Oltmann as a source of information to report on Dr. Coomer and Dominion[…]
Also on November 13, 2020, Michelle Malkin hosted an interview with Oltmann, who was identified as a representative of FEC United, on her personal YouTube channel, #MalkinLive, which has approximately 100,000 subscribers. During the MalkinLive interview, Oltmann again falsely alleged that Dr. Coomer was an anonymous Antifa activist on a purported call Oltmann claimed to have infiltrated well before the election. Yet only after the election did Oltmann allegedly determine from this call that Dr. Coomer subverted the presidential election to elect Joe Biden. Malkin published these false statements despite their inherent improbability, the unreliability of her source, and the lack of credible evidence in support of these allegations. Malkin had no credible evidence that an “Antifa conference call” actually happened; that Dr. Coomer was present on the call; that the comments attributed to Dr. Coomer were actually spoken; and that the alleged election fraud actually occurred. Malkin took no actions or efforts to corroborate or verify the baseless allegations before publishing them and disregarded reliable sources establishing the contrary.
Nov. 14: Gateway Pundit publishes on the Antifa theory.
On November 14, 2020, Gateway Pundit began publishing successive articles written by Hoft based and built upon Oltmann’s false allegations. Gateway Pundit and Hoft asserted, “Oltmann said that as the conversation continued, someone asked, ‘What are we gonna do if F*cking Trump wins?’ Oltmann paraphrased how Eric (the Dominion guy) responded, ‘Don’t worry about the election, Trump’s not gonna win. I made f*cking sure of that!’”70 Gateway Pundit repeatedly identified Oltmann, a “Denver business owner” and “founder of FEC (Faith Education Commerce) United,” as the source of its articles about Dr. Coomer and Dominion.
Nov. 17: OAN’s Chanel Rion reports.
On November 17, 2020, OANN Chief White House Correspondent Chanel Rion published false statements regarding Dr. Coomer, tweeting “Dominion Director of Strategy and Security, #EricCoomer: ‘Trump won’t win. I made F***ing sure of that.’”73 As a representative of OANN and national broadcast reporter, Rion has a Twitter following of roughly 588,000 people with followers across the United States, including those in Colorado. Rion’s November 17 tweet referencing Dr. Coomer garnered more than 40,000 likes.
On this day, President Trump’s son Eric Trump tweeted out a Gateway Pundit story about Coomer as well.
Nov. 19: at the “Elite Strike Force” Press Conference, Sidney Powell incorrectly said Coomer worked for Smartmatic and repeated the Oltmann claims. Rudy Giuliani called Coomer a “completely warped” and “vicious, vicious man.” Then Jenna Ellis said it was “fundamentally flawed” for the press to ask, “Where is the evidence?”
During the press conference, Powell falsely stated:
“Speaking of Smartmatic’s leadership, one of the Smartmatic patent holders, Eric Coomer I believe his name is, is on the web as being recorded in a conversation with Antifa members, saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden, nothing to worry about here, and he was going to, they were going to f— Trump. His social media is filled with hatred for the President, and for the United States of America as a whole, as are the social media accounts of many other Smartmatic people.”
Giuliani furthered these unfounded attacks on Dr. Coomer, stating:
“By the way, the Coomer character, who is close to Antifa, took off all of his social media, haha, but we kept it. We’ve got it. The man is a vicious, vicious man. He wrote horrible things about the president. He is completely – he is completely biased. He is completely warped. And, he specifically says, that they are going to fix this election. I don’t know what you need to wake up, to do your job, and inform the American people, whether you like it or not, of the things they need to know.
This is real. It is not made up. It is not – there is nobody here that engages in fantasies. I’ve tried a hundred cases. I’ve prosecuted some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. I know crimes. I can smell them. You don’t have to smell this one. I can prove it to you eighteen different ways. I can prove to you that he won Pennsylvania by 300,000 votes. I can prove to you that he won Michigan by probably 50,000 votes.
When I went to bed on election night, he was ahead in all of those states, every single one of those states. How is it they all turned around? Every single one of them turned around. Or is it more consistent that there was a plan to turn them around? And since there are witnesses who say there was a plan to turn them around, and it kind of begs credulity to say that it all happened in every single state, my goodness this is how you win cases in a courtroom.”
In response to inquiries from members of the press in attendance at the news conference, Jenna Ellis, baldly informed them, “Your question is fundamentally flawed when you’re asking, ‘Where is the evidence?’
Nov. 20, Powell went on Newsmax’s The Howie Carr Show and said Oltmann’s claims about Coomer’s statements were “true.” Powell said she believed there was a “copy” of the purported Antifa call. There wasn’t. On the same day, Powell told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that Coomer “admitt[ed] on tape that he rigged the election for Biden and hated Trump.” The night before, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson said Powell provided no proof of her “bombshell claims.” After the Bartiromo interview, Carlson hit Powell again (notably, Fox was not sued in the Coomer case).
On November 20, 2020, Defendant Newsmax interviewed Powell on “The Howie Carr Show” and identified her as an attorney for the President’s Campaign. In this interview, Carr asked Powell to confirm that there was alleged evidence of widespread voter fraud, that votes cast had been changed through voting machines, that millions of votes had been removed from President Trump and given to President-Elect Joe Biden, and that Dr. Coomer through Dominion was part of this conspiracy to subvert the presidential election. Carr then asked Powell whether Dr. Coomer actually stated “Don’t worry about President Trump, I already made sure that he’s going to lose the election.” Powell falsely attributed these statements to Dr. Coomer, stating “Yes, it’s true. We have an affidavit to that effect and I think we have a copy of the call.”
Powell had no “copy of the call” or recording. Dr. Coomer had not “disappeared.” And Dominion had not closed its offices. These allegations were capable of verification. Yet, neither Newsmax nor Powell made any legitimate effort to verify them before publishing. They had no credible evidence or reliable source. They again disregarded reliable sources establishing the contrary.
On this same day, Powell appeared in another interview with Maria Bartiromo and again alleged she had a tape of Dr. Coomer saying he was going to rig the election for Biden. Again, she had no tape. However, Powell apparently did not have time to appear on Fox News that same day with Tucker Carlson. That evening, Carlson published an opinion piece wherein he stated, “We asked the Trump campaign attorney for proof of her bombshell claims. She gave us nothing.”
Nov. 24, Eric Metaxas interviews Oltmann and the “Antifa conference call” claims were repeated.
Similarly, Eric Metaxas hosted an interview with Oltmann, who was again identified as a representative of FEC United, on his radio talk show and podcast on November 24, 2020. This interview was also published on Metaxas’s YouTube channel, The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, which has approximately 185,000 subscribers.
Oltmann again falsely alleged that Dr. Coomer was an anonymous Antifa activist on a purported call Oltmann claimed to have infiltrated well before the election. And again allegedly determined from this call that Dr. Coomer subverted the presidential election. Metaxas also published these false statements despite their inherent improbability, the unreliability of his source, and the lack of credible evidence in support of these allegations. Metaxas also had no credible evidence that an “Antifa conference call” actually happened; that Dr. Coomer was present on the call; that the comments attributed to Dr. Coomer were actually spoken; and that the alleged election fraud actually occurred. Metaxas also took no actions or efforts to corroborate or verify the baseless allegations before publishing them and disregarded reliable sources establishing the contrary. Following this interview, Metaxas, like Malkin, published additional false statements in tweets, promoting his interview of Oltmann and the allegations of fraud to his followers.
Coomer said that all of the foregoing led to a barrage of threats, some of them sent in text messages to his phone.
The lawsuit said that the aforementioned “Meet Eric Coomer” image based on Oltmann’s claims eventually made its way to the /r/donaldtrump subreddit with the title, “Eric Coomer needs to be arrested before he tries to run/or fly away.” Here was a sampling of the response to that post:
Coomer said that all of the allegations against him are completely false, have harmed his reputation and that ensuing threats have forced him to “sever ties with friends and family members in order to stay in seclusion.” He has said that his address, phone number and the kind of car he drives has been put out there on the internet. He said his father even received a handwritten letter, saying, “How does it feel to have a traitor as a son.”
“The defamatory meaning of Defendants’ false statements is apparent from the face of their publication, refer to Dr. Coomer, and are understood to be about him. These statements are defamatory per se as they inherently injure Dr.Coomer’s reputation; impute a crime; and disparage his business practices. On their face, they falsely assert Dr. Coomer has perpetrated a conspiracy that undermined the integrity of the election; disenfranchised millions of voters; and fraudulently elected the president of the United States,” the suit said. “Defendants falsely allege Dr. Coomer accomplished this through fraudulent business practices as an employee of Dominion. Defendants falsely allege Dr. Coomer is a traitor. Defendants’ false statements have subjected Dr. Coomer to scorn, outrage, and threats from his community. Their false statements have harmed Dr. Coomer’s reputation by lowering him in the estimation of at least a substantial and respectable minority of the community.”
The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendants, requiring them to “remove any and all defamatory publications made about Dr. Coomer.” It also seeks a full and public retraction, damages, a trial, leave to amend the complaint, attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court deems proper.
Law&Crime reached out to Coomer’s lawyers at Cain & Skarnulis PLLC. Charlie Cain and Steve Skarnulis said the lawsuit speaks for itself, but they reiterated that the firm is “committed to the representation of Dr. Coomer in this important case.”
“We are hopeful the lawsuit shuts down the harassment and intimidation he has been subjected to due to the baseless allegations that have been made against him,” a statement said.
Law&Crime also reached out to Powell, Malkin, Metaxas, Newsmax, OAN, and an attorney for Giuliani.
Newsmax released a statement saying that it “made no claims” about Coomer, Powell did. Newsmax said it did not adopt or certify Powell’s claims. Newsmax also said it was “noteworthy” that their competitor Fox, which wasn’t named as a defendant even though Powell repeated claims about Coomer on that network, hasn’t issued a “public retraction or clarification as to Coomer or Dominion.” The full statement:
Newsmax has made no claims concerning Eric Coomer, an employee of Dominion Voting Systems. During an interview on the Howie Carr Show, a radio program Newsmax simulcasts and licenses but does not produce, attorney Sidney Powell made certain allegations about Mr. Coomer. Newsmax merely aired a show on which Ms. Powell’s allegations were presented and never suggested that there was evidence to support her allegations. Given the public interest, Newsmax has offered news coverage of claims made by President Trump, his lawyers and allegations made in legal documents filed in the election case. In its news coverage, Newsmax has not adopted or certified these claims, and has consistently reported that Dominion disputes claims made by President Trump and his supporters. It is noteworthy that Fox News has covered and aired multiple allegations of wrongdoing about Mr. Coomer and Dominion, made by Pres. Trump’s lawyers and others, and Fox has not offered any public retraction or clarification as to Coomer or Dominion. Fox was not named in Mr. Coomer’s lawsuit.
[Image via 9News screengrab]
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