Two Black Georgia election workers found themselves at the center of the 2020 election fraud claims (lies) thanks to online conservative publication The Gateway Pundit. Now, the two workers are suing the website for defamation.
Ruby Freeman was a temporary worker for the 2020 elections while her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss served as a voter registration officer, The Hill reports. In a lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, the two women claim the far-right publication named them while covering what former President Donald Trump’s team presented during an election fraud hearing.
In the story, the two workers are accused of “counting illegal ballots from a suitcase stashed under a table.”
According to NBC News, the lawsuit alleges that Jim and Joe Hoft, the twin brothers who run and write for the site, caused an onslaught of harassment that resulted in them changing their phone numbers and deleting their online presence.
Freeman said that strangers tried twice to barge into her home and perform a “citizen’s arrest.” The suit also claims that the FBI recommended for Freeman to shut down her business and leave her home, which she did for two months.
Gateway Pundit’s articles began when they identified Freeman in a surveillance video from a Georgia voting center first presented by Trump campaign lawyer Jacki Pick to Georgia’s State Senate on Dec. 3. Pick claimed someone who “had the name Ruby across her shirt somewhere” found a “suitcase” full of ballots from “underneath a table.”
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The claims were quickly dismissed by both Georgia’s secretary of state and its Bureau of Investigation, who said there was no suitcase. Election workers, who had been previously told to stop counting ballots and pack up for the night, were told to re-start the ballot count, and Freeman was simply continuing her work.
But the conspiracy theory persisted on pro-Trump websites and with QAnon influencers on social media, eventually leading Hoft to publish Freeman’s name. On Dec. 22, then-President Trump tweeted a segment from conservative cable news channel OANN featuring Gateway Pundit’s writing, which the site dubbed an “investigation.” The tweet, which just featured the video without comment from Trump, received hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.
Gateway Pundit articles continued to accuse Freeman and Moss of voter fraud throughout the spring and summer.
According to NBC, Trump went on to call Freeman by name while on the phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger on Jan. 2, saying she was “a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler.”
“People have said the most vile and violent and racist things about me and my family—on the phone, on my social media accounts, on email, and in person. Things you wouldn’t believe,” Freeman said in a statement, according to NBC.
“The toll of all this on your life, day in and day out, it wears on you. I go to church and I know that God is my keeper, so I’m keeping my head up. But the impact is still there. For example, when I’m out in public and I hear someone call my name, I jump. Just hearing my name scares me.”
Both Freeman and her daughter are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and want the articles removed with statements asserting that the claims about them were false.