A Blog Can Still Be Dangerous

The blog revolution gave rise to a great many citizen journalists who may have been outdoing their professional counterparts in some places. But those days are mostly gone. The best got paying gigs and the rest of us just talk to ourselves.

However, there are still a few potent sites out there doing citizen journalism, breaking stories that bigger outlets might be worried to touch. And for good reason sometimes, because some of those investigations were not grounded in the facts.

This story is about one of those blogs.

Gateway Pundit was a high traffic right wing blog back in the heyday, and evidently its influence has no signs of waning. It disrupted the lives of two Georgia 2020 poll workers so badly that they are now having the pants sued off them:

The election workers, Ruby Freeman, a retired 911 call center worker, and her daughter, Shaye Moss, allege in the lawsuit that Jim and Joe Hoft, twin brothers who operate and write for The Gateway Pundit, conducted “a campaign of lies” that “instigated a deluge of intimidation, harassment, and threats that has forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts, and fear for their physical safety.”

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.”

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.

The fallout:

At the height of the harassment, Freeman said strangers twice attempted to push into her home to “make a citizens’ arrest,” the lawsuit alleges. Freeman was eventually forced to shutter her business and flee her home for two months at the recommendation of the FBI, the suit says.

“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, who is Black, said in a statement. 

I hope that Gateway Pundit’s readership steps up to cover the massive hole that these ladies are about to blow into their wallets. They couldn’t leave well enough alone, thinking they had something big.


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