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Protect Democracy Joins Defamation Suit Against Project Veritas: Group Maliciously Lied About a PA Postmaster In the Aftermath of 2020 Election

Judge Granted Postmaster’s Motion to File Amended Complaint

August 16, 2021 — Today, a Pennsylvania judge granted a postmaster’s motion to file an amended complaint in a lawsuit filed against the video production house Project Veritas and several individuals. The lawsuit concerns a series of defamatory videos, maliciously produced and distributed by Project Veritas that falsely asserted that Erie, Pennsylvania Postmaster Robert Weisenbach backdated mail-in ballots in order to help Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Protect Democracy has joined the suit, which was originally filed by Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky, P.C. in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas on April 22.

The sensational series of videos helped propel the burgeoning Big Lie around the 2020 election, which sapped critical faith in democratic institutions and fueled the misguided rage that boiled over in Washington D.C. on Jan 6, 2021, when rioters attempted to stop Congress from overseeing the constitutional transfer of power.

 Defendant Richard Hopkins, who would later recant his accusations in an interview with post office inspectors, originally told Project Veritas that Weisenbach was part of an alleged mail tampering plot committed to stealing the presidential election from then-President Donald Trump. Despite admitting later that he had never heard anything incriminating, Hopkins told Project Veritas that he overheard Weisenbach discussing how he had backdated mail ballots that were received after Pennsylvania’s ballot deadline in order for them to be counted for Biden. As it turns out, Weisenbach was not even “Anti-Trump,” as Hopkins claimed—he voted for Trump.

“In my opinion, this was character assassination, not journalism, and it’s not even close,” said Robert Weisenbach, the Erie, PA Postmaster, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “They just wanted to destroy my reputation for their own ends.” 

Project Veritas’s founder James O’Keefe tweeted that “fraud is happening as we speak,” despite the lack of any credible evidence whatsoever. Project Veritas nor O’Keefe made any meaningful effort to verify their claims, but they made extraordinary efforts to hype their outlandish charges by continuing to issue videos with reckless disregard for the truth or the damage inflicted on Weisenbach, even after Hopkins recanted his claims.

In fact, soon after the videos were released, Weisenbach was accosted at his home by an angry stranger yelling threats — based on claims made in the Project Veritas videos. The claims made in the video were also cited by others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who called for a federal investigation into the nonexistent ballot fraud in Pennsylvania. Ultimately, a U.S. Postal Service investigation confirmed that there was no fraud. 

The complaint alleges that Hopkins, Project Veritas, and O’Keefe knowingly defamed Weisenbach, and that they worked together in doing so.

In addition to driving attention and fundraising for Project Veritas, the defamatory videos led Hopkins to raise tens of thousands of dollars from other Americans duped into believing Hopkins’s lies.

 “Sadly, at great personal cost to Rob and his family, Hopkins, O’Keefe and Project Veritas concocted this completely baseless story for the sole purpose of undermining the election results and defaming our client,” said lead counsel David Houck, a trial attorney at Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky, P.C. “Filing this lawsuit was not Rob’s first choice, he tried numerous times to get a retraction or correction from Project Veritas, but they just shrugged him off.” 

Holding Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, and Richard Hopkins accountable is also crucial for our democracy. 

“Mr. Weisenbach was targeted with vicious lies, and he deserves justice,” said John Langford, counsel for Protect Democracy. “But the ultimate victim of this defamation was our democracy. There are no free speech protections for those who undermine our democracy by intentionally or recklessly spreading lies. Such lies must have consequences.”

The complaint can be found HERE.

 More information about the case is HERE.

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Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky, P.C. are a Plaintiff’s litigation firm, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that is committed to protecting the rights of our clients. 

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.