Chobani Yogurt Is Suing Alex Jones for $10,000

Credit Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press
Chobani, the yogurt company, has filed a lawsuit against Alex Jones, the high-profile conspiracy theorist and the host of a popular right-wing radio show, for posting what it called false news reports about the company and its owner. The suit, filed on Monday in district court in Twin Falls County, Idaho, named Mr. Jones and the media companies InfoWars and Free Speech Systems as defendants. It called “false” and “defamatory” several reports that appeared on InfoWars alleging that the company’s factory in Idaho, which employs refugees, was connected to a 2016 child sexual assault and a rise in tuberculosis cases.
The reports were published April 11 on and on “The Alex Jones Channel” on YouTube. They were promoted on Twitter under the headline “Idaho Yogurt maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists,” and were spread widely online.

The founder of Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent, has been the target of right wing threats by people who accuse him of employing too many refugees in his factories, which began as a yogurt business in upstate New York and then expanded to Twin Falls, a city of about 46,500 south of Boise.

Mr. Ulukaya became the target of anti-immigrant ire after he stepped up his advocacy of refugees — employing more than 300 of them in his factories, and starting a foundation to help migrants. He and his company have been targeted with racist attacks on social media and conspiratorial articles on websites including Breitbart News. Mr. Jones, appearing in a video statement on Tuesday, said that his organization would “fight” the lawsuit and that it was reporting on an assault case and tuberculosis rates from material that “has been all over mainstream news.”

He also sought financial and commercial support from fans. “We will defeat these people,” Mr. Jones said. “This is my fight, this is your fight, this is our fight against a bunch of authoritarian, globalist, third-world populations allied with the global elite, who are totally cold blooded.” Two lawyers for Mr. Jones, emailed on Tuesday, were not available for comment.

One of the InfoWars stories that is the subject of Chobani’s lawsuit involved a 2016 sexual assault in Twin Falls that drew national headlines. The InfoWars video promoted on Twitter on April 11 reported that three children involved in the assault were refugees, and then it gave details of Mr. Chobani’s policy of hiring refugees in the city.

The Twin Falls county prosecutor, Grant Loebs, said in an interview on Tuesday that the assault case had nothing to do with Chobani. He said he was not authorized to speak about the details because the case involved minors, although he noted that the local media had been reporting on it since it happened last year.

Mr. Loebs said that on June 2, 2016, a 5-year old girl at an apartment complex in Twin Falls was sexually assaulted by three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14. Two of them were refugees from Eritrea, and one was from Iraq. The children pleaded guilty to separate charges including sexual exploitation of a child and misdemeanor battery.

“There was no gang rape, no knife attack, and we did not charge anybody with rape because no rape occurred,” Mr. Loebs said.

The lawsuit filed by Chobani said Mr. Jones and his companies had declined to remove the reports or publish a retraction despite multiple written demands.

It said the defendants acted with “actual malice” to harm Chobani’s reputation and to discourage customers from purchasing its products. The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial, and the amount of “substantial damages” Chobani has suffered will be provided at a trial.

The lawsuit also noted that Mr. Jones was “no stranger to spurious statements.” It cited his previous contentions that the Sept. 11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax concocted by those hostile to the Second Amendment.

Last month, Mr. Jones apologized for his role in spreading the hoax known as Pizzagate, which claimed, falsely, that top Democratic officials were involved with child abuse ring centered around Comet Ping Pong, a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

The restaurant was besieged with threats, and in December a man drove from North Carolina to the pizzeria and fired a rifle inside. The man, Edgar M. Welch, 28, has pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm and will be sentenced in June. In an interview a few days after his arrest, Mr. Welch told The New York Times that he listened to Mr. Jones’s show, saying that the host “touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.”

In Mr. Jones’s apology, he said InfoWars had taken down the majority of posts that mentioned Pizzagate and “disassociated” itself from the story in December. (By CHRISTINE HAUSER, NYT)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07