Yashar Ali, the journalist under threat of a $50 million defamation lawsuit from “The Specialists” host Eric Bolling, is nothing if not ready for the man he described on CNN as “trying to intimidate me.”
“I enjoy the challenge,” Ali told TheWrap in a phone interview.
“I think Eric assumed that I was some young reporter that would get scared off by some big number, but when you deal with what I’ve dealt with and what my family has dealt with, this is nothing.”
Ali grew up in suburban Chicago, but visited family in Iran during the summers, and he says that he’s had several family members imprisoned there. “When I had been in Iran, I had my car pulled over and secret police interrogate me and my family, you know this was years and years and years ago, this didn’t happen yesterday,” Ali points out. “When things like that happen in your childhood, it just makes things like this very minor in comparison.”
Ali received a summons from Michael Bowe, Bolling’s lawyer, on Aug. 9, five days after he published a story accusing Bolling of sending at least three female colleagues an unsolicited photo of male genitalia. The outlet cited “a dozen sources” who said that the messages were sent several years ago and the women found them “deeply upsetting and offensive.”
It’s important to note that neither the HuffPost, where Ali’s story is published, nor Fox News is named on the summons. Ali thinks this “shows that [Bolling is] very unserious, frankly. You want 50 million bucks, you go after Verizon which owns HuffPost, not me.”
The “summons with notice” accuses Ali of “efforts to injure the plaintiff’s reputation through the intentional and/or highly reckless publication of actionable false and misleading statements about the plaintiff’s conduct and character.”
Ali’s lawyer Patty Glaser responded to the summons within the required 20 days, but Ali has not received any further official word from Bolling’s camp. TheWrap reached out to Bowe, but has not heard back and will update this post accordingly.
While Ali said HuffPost offered to pay his legal fees, he turned the outlet down in order to maintain control. He’s nonchalant about the threat of going to court for such a steep sum, and said he’s received support from other reporters.
“I’m not surprised by the initial reaction to the story. I was surprised by the reaction to the lawsuit, which has been pretty positive. I guess I just didn’t realize how rarely this happens, where a public figure sues a reporter,” he told TheWrap.
“I think the positive reaction I’ve gotten from other reporters has to do with [the Hulk Hogan/Gawker case] because of fear that somebody, because they don’t like your story, will come after you. But the thing about this, and I said this on CNN, was like, what’s pretty incredible is … seeing [Bolling] come after me directly [and not HuffPost].”
It should be noted that Bolling, who was suspended at Fox News August 5, says he has received support after the story, too. “Overwhelmed by all the support I have received. Thank you,” he tweeted two days before sending the summons to Ali. “I look forward to clearing my name asap.” And then on August 9, he tweeted again: “I will continue to fight against these false smear attacks! THANK YOU FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT.”
Overwhelmed by all the support I have received. Thank you
I look forward to clearing my name asap
— 🏴☠️ERIC BOLLING 🏴☠️ (@ericbolling) August 7, 2017
I will continue to fight against these false smear attacks! THANK YOU FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT
— 🏴☠️ERIC BOLLING 🏴☠️ (@ericbolling) August 9, 2017
The investigation is still ongoing, a Fox spokesperson told TheWrap Friday.
For being under the threat of a lawsuit from a Fox News employee, Ali had good things to say about how the network has turned itself around after a long string of sexual harassment allegations. He said leadership at Fox News was a “cess pool” while under Roger Ailes’ leadership, “and things were swept under the rug.”
“That’s not happening anymore at Fox News, or Fox Business,” Ali said. “I mean, they responded very quickly to this, and went into investigation mode almost immediately. I mean, the next morning they suspended him, and you know, sent it over to Paul Weiss [who is conducting the investigation]. So what it says about Fox News is that they’re taking this very seriously, and they’re not messing around anymore. But the reason all of this happened over the years is because Roger Ailes did not see it as a priority to handle this kind of stuff properly because he was doing it himself.”
“All I know is this: my story is accurate, it has 14 sources, it was vetted by a lawyer before it went out. I stand by my story, I stand by my sources,” Ali said.