In the year since the Trump campaign and the conspiracy theory website The Gateway Pundit cast Wandrea Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman as key players in a false narrative of election fraud, Moss hasn’t been able to sleep much.
She’s gained 50 pounds. Her son failed multiple classes in school, as the phone he was using as an internet connection for his remote education was bombarded with racial slurs and threats. At least twice, strangers showed up to Moss’ grandmother’s home and attempted to push their way inside to perform a citizen’s arrest.
Things weren’t any better for Freeman, who was also bombarded with threats, unwanted pizza deliveries and threatening Christmas cards. On Jan. 6, a crowd surrounded Freeman’s home — but she wasn’t there, having taken the FBI’s advice to relocate.
That’s all according to a new defamation lawsuit that Moss and Freeman have filed in state court in St. Louis against Gateway Pundit, its owner Jim Hoft, and Jim’s twin brother and fellow Gateway Pundit writer Joe Hoft. The plaintiffs are being represented by lawyers with the group Protect Democracy.
The far-right website, a prime source for introducing fever swamp internet ramblings into the Trumpian mainstream, was a key driver in turning Moss and Freeman into household names, according to the suit — at least, in those households sucked into Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
Specifically, the pair were featured in months of Gateway Pundit articles focused on selectively-edited surveillance video from the State Farm Arena, where Freeman, Moss and others were counting votes. The Trump campaign premiered the misleading footage during Dec. 3 testimony before the Georgia State Senate. Moss was, and still is, an employee for the Fulton County elections department, and Freeman was a temporary worker for the department during the 2020 election.
The obsessive coverage falsely accused them of stuffing illegal ballots through counting machines, a conspiracy theory crafted after an overflowing urinal briefly halted the tabulation process and prompted wild speculation. As a result, according to the suit, months of death threats and harassment followed.
“Defendants’ wrongful conduct is so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree that it is beyond all possible bounds of decency and is to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit read. It sought a judgement forcing the Hofts and The Gateway Pundit to remove the allegedly defamatory material, compensatory damages “in an amount to be determined at trial,” and other relief.
Denizens of the sane internet may have heard of Freeman and Moss from the President himself: Trump name-dropped Freeman 13 times during his now-infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he pressured Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” which would win Trump the state.
“I’ll take on anybody you want with regard to Ruby Freeman and her lovely daughter,” the President said during the call. “A very lovely young lady, I’m sure. But Ruby Freeman, I will take Freeman.”
“At the minimum, there were 18,000 ballots but they used them three times, so that’s a lot of votes,” he falsely added of the pair.
The suit noted that that Raffensperger call came after more than a month of Gateway Pundit articles identifying Freeman and Moss by name. It alleged that Trump had “repeated” the claims from the defendants.
The day after the call, The Gateway Pundit published a new story, reminding readers that it had been the first to identify Freeman and Moss, the suit alleged. The site ran a typically loud headline: “HUGE: TRUMP DROPS A BOMB DURING PHONE CALL! Tells Raffensperger ‘Vote Scammer and Hustler’ Ruby Freeman Was Behind Alleged 18,000 FRAUDULENT VOTES in Suitcase Scandal! (VIDEO).”
Despite public and repeated fact-checks of the conspiracy theories about the edited video — by news outlets and Georgia officials — Gateway Pundit has been pushing the false claims for months, the lawsuit alleged.
“Defendants disregarded the reliable sources refuting their claims and had no credible basis for the false allegations they continued to make,” read the defamation suit announced Thursday, which accused the Hofts and Gateway pundit of lying because it would drive clicks.
“At no point in publishing their many stories about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss did Defendants ever attempt to contact Plaintiffs to obtain their account of the events being reported,” the suit continued. “Nor did Defendants contact for corroboration other obvious available sources, and they specifically avoided contacting sources who had evidence to disprove their lies.”
The Gateway Pundit responded to the suit Thursday as expected: With more of the same.
“The Gateway Pundit was also first to report that Ruby Freeman was caught on video shoving stacks of ballots through the voting machines numerous times late at night after all of the election observers were sent home,” an article on the site read. (Observers were not sent home, a secretary of state’s office investigation noted in the lawsuit found, nor were ballots illegally counted.)
“The anti-Trump officials in Georgia insisted that this was normal procedure in the state of Georgia. We disagree.”