Yogurt maker Chobani filed suit against internet conspiracy theorist Alex Jones yesterday alleging that he “knowingly misrepresented the facts” by linking the company and its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, to a sexual assault case involving refugee children.
Chobani’s attorneys tell an Idaho court that Jones “is no stranger to spurious statements. He has claimed that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.”
Earlier this month, Jones’s website InfoWars published a video claiming that the company had brought crime and disease to Twin Falls, Idaho because it makes a point of hiring refugees. Titled “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Important Migrant Rapists,” the video fails to establish a link of any kind between Chobani and criminal acts.
“The background of the video repeatedly depicts, and in doing so misrepresents, Chobani’s owner and Chobani’s products,” company lawyers say.
Chobani employs about 1000 workers in Twin Falls. The city has become a focus of outside agitators since last summer, when three refugee boys were charged with assaulting a 5 year-old girl in the laundry room of an apartment complex. Aged 14, 10, and 7, the boys all pleaded guilty the first week of April.
Ulukaya also became the focus of an intense right wing smear campaign during an election fraught with anti-refugee hate speech. Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan, a longtime libel merchant, led the effort to frame Ulukaya as a sinister agent of “globalist” subversion.
Relying on Breitbart’s dubious reporting, host David Knight claimed that Chobani’s hiring policies had led to “a five hundred percent increase in tuberculosis” and drained “$54 million dollars from the local and state community.” He then insinuated the sexual assault case was connected to Chobani.
The company says that InfoWars “acted with actual malice” and demands that Jones apologize and correct the false reporting. “The defendants’ defamatory statements were designed to cause — and did in fact cause — customers to call for a boycott of Chobani’s products,” the suit claims.
Although Chobani is asking for just $10,000 in damages, a verdict against the website would forever cement its reputation as a peddler of fake news. The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that Jones is “almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.”
Jones recently apologized for promoting the “pizzagate” story, a bizarre hoax in which Hillary Clinton supposedly ran a child sex abuse ring out of a Washington, DC pizzeria’s nonexistent basement, after one of his fans tried to “self-investigate” the story with an assault rifle.
This week, Jones is also embroiled in a child custody dispute with his ex-wife. Although Jones insists that he “110 percent believes” everything that he says, his lawyers argue that his deranged, ranting podcast is just “performance art.”
Read Chobani’s complaint below.
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