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Anti-Trump Protester Sues Fox News for Defamation

Variety logo Variety 5/8/2017 Gene Maddaus
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A protester who was tackled at a Trump rally last fall has filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging the channel falsely linked him to voter fraud.

Austyn Crites was taken to the ground and arrested at a rally in Reno, Nevada, on Nov. 5 when a rumor swept the crowd that he had a gun. In fact, he was holding only a paper sign reading “Republicans Against Trump.”

On Nov. 7, Brian Kilmeade did a report on “Fox and Friends” accusing Crites of a connection to voter fraud.

“He claims he was a Republican, but it turns out he’s a huge Hillary supporter,” Kilmeade said. “And his grandmother has been using his address to vote absentee for years. But she’s been dead since 2002. Although I miss her, I don’t think she should be voting.”

In fact, Crites’ grandmother was alive.

Crites filed the lawsuit on April 7 in Washoe County, Nevada, alleging that Fox had damaged his reputation and harmed his business prospects. The suit states that Fox did not seek to contact Crites or his grandmother before airing its report.

“Fox acted carelessly and recklessly and disregarded Plaintiff’s rights when Fox fabricated the false statements about Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

On Dec. 15, Crites’ attorneys sent Fox a demand for a retraction. On Dec. 23, Steve Doocy read an on-air apology to Crites and his grandmother.

“We used an exaggerated description, and we also stated that Austyn Crites was suspected of voting under his deceased grandmother’s name using his address. However, Mr. Crites tells us his grandmother is alive and he did not commit voter fraud,” Doocy said.

Crites’ attorney alleges that the apology fell short of a genuine retraction.

“Fox did not acknowledge or state that the information provided by Plaintiff was correct and true,” the lawsuit states.

Thomas P. Erwin of the Reno firm of Erwin & Johnson is handling the suit. Fox has yet to be served with the complaint, Erwin said.

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