Two metro Atlanta elections workers are taking on some of the nation’s most influential disseminators of misinformation.
Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, have just filed their second defamation lawsuit this month, alleging they were falsely accused of committing ballot fraud–this time against a far-right cable news outlet, its executives, and Rudy Guiliani, New York City’s former mayor who became former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
They filed the Dec. 23 lawsuit against One America News Network and Guiliani just three weeks after filing a similar defamation lawsuit against the rightwing website The Gateway Pundit.
The pair allege that they’ve become “the objects of vitriol, threats, and harassment” because of a “campaign of malicious lies” and “character assasination” spread on social media and television by OAN and Guiliani, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia.
Moss supervised Fulton County’s absentee ballot operation during the 2020 general election, and she has worked for the Fulton Registration and Elections Department since 2012, according to the lawsuit. She currently works as a Fulton registration officer, processing voter applications and helping voters in person and over the phone. Her mother was a temporary election worker during the 2020 election.
The case is a classic David-and-Goliath story, but this time the underdogs are fighting back with an arsenal of legal heavy hitters. The pair are represented by Project Democracy through its Law For Truth project, which has partnered with a consortium of high-powered law firms for the second lawsuit: Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a New York-based white-shoe, global law firm, along with DuBose Miller and Kastorf Law, two Atlanta-based boutique law firms.
“By filing the lawsuits, they can fight back and turn this around–and put the pressure on the people who are responsible,” Alan Abramowitz, professor emeritus of political science at Emory University, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “It shows the people who are spreading these lies that there are consequences to what they’re doing.”
There’s a more insidious reason for the continued intimidation of election workers, Abramowitz added. “This is part of a larger strategy to undermine confidence in democracy and ultimately make the whole election system more susceptible to manipulation,” he said.
Abramowitz compared Moss and Freemans’ lawsuits to lawsuits filed by voting machine manufacturers, similarly alleging they’ve been falsely accused by far-right groups of rigging elections. A former Dominion Voting executive filed a federal defamation lawsuit on Dec. 23 against far-right talk show host Clay Clark, founder of the ReAwaken America Tour.
Additional lawsuits from election workers alleging defamation could follow in other states where the 2020 presidential election was close, such as Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Abramowitz said.
Moss and Freeman’s latest lawsuit alleges that OAN, its top executives, and Guiliani, a frequent OAN guest, “knowingly and repeatedly disseminated false information” about the women. In addition to its cable TV operations, OAN has 1.5 million Facebook followers and 1.4 million YouTube subscribers, according to the lawsuit.
Trump and others falsely accused Moss and Freeman of counting fake mail-in ballots, after a brief video clip from a security camera circulated on social media showing them extracting ballots from what were assumed to be suitcases at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on Election Day. But the suitcases were standard ballot containers, and the votes were properly counted, Reuters and other outlets reported.
A Project Democracy spokesman said he had no further information on whether Moss and Freeman would file additional lawsuits. Guilliani and OAN founder and CEO Robert Herring did not respond to requests for comment from Atlanta Civic Circle.