Radio Host Says Website Falsely Accused Him of Terrorism

By Michael Kunzelman | February 27, 2019

A Muslim-American radio host is asking a federal court in Ohio to award him more than $1 million in damages for his claims that a neo-Nazi website operator falsely accused him of terrorism.

Attorneys for SiriusXM Radio show host Dean Obeidallah said in a court filing Friday that they are seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin and his company.

Anglin hasn’t formally responded to the suit. Obeidallah’s lawyers are trying to secure a default judgment against Anglin and his company, Moonbase Holdings LLC.

Obeidallah’s lawsuit says Anglin falsely labeled him as the “mastermind” behind a deadly bombing at a concert in England. Obeidallah said Anglin libeled him, invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted “emotional distress.”

Obeidallah, a comedian and Daily Beast columnist, said he received death threats after Anglin published an article about him in June 2017. The site embedded fabricated messages in the post to make them seem like they had been sent from Obeidallah’s Twitter account, tricking readers into believing he took responsibility for the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, his lawsuit alleges.

“The emotional harm and anguish that I suffered as a result of the (article) was especially damaging because it undermined the dedication that I have shown to improving the image of Muslims and Arab-Americans in American culture,” Obeidallah said in court filing Friday.

Fearing for his safety, Obeidallah said he changed his habits.

“I became concerned when walking around in public, and found myself having suspicious and nervous thoughts when passing strangers,” he said. “Instead of interacting normally, I wondered if other people might be looking at me and thinking of me as a terrorist.”

An earlier court filing by Obeidallah’s attorneys said Anglin’s father, Greg, testified that he helped his son collect and deposit between $100,000 and $150,000 in readers’ mailed donations over a five-year period. Obeidallah’s lawyers subsequently asked for the court’s authorization to subpoena financial records from three banks that Greg Anglin used to funnel donated money to his son.

Friday’s court filing says one of Anglin’s bank accounts received more than $198,000 in donations between February 2016 and October 2018. Obeidallah’s lawyers cited an estimate that Anglin has received more than $378,000 in bitcoin. He also used a crowdfunding website to raise more than $152,000 in donations to help pay for his legal expenses.

Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Sturmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. The site includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.”

Obeidallah is represented by attorneys from Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organization. They argued Anglin’s “refusal to participate in this proceeding, while mocking its existence, justifies an award of significant punitive damages.”

Obeidallah’s case is one of three federal lawsuits filed against Anglin by targets of his racist and anti-Semitic trolling campaigns. Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh sued Anglin in April 2017, saying anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information. Another lawsuit said Anglin directed his site’s readers to cyberbully a black college student, Taylor Dumpson, after she became the first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president.

Marc Randazza, an attorney defending Anglin against Gersh’s lawsuit, said in an email Monday that he hasn’t been retained to represent Anglin in Obeidallah’s case and isn’t following it.

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