A Bernie Sanders supporter is suing James Woods in an Ohio court, over false information that he tweeted last year amid the tumultuous presidential campaign. Woods incorrectly identified Portia Boulger as the subject at the center of a viral photo, which depicted an older woman in a Trump shirt giving a Nazi salute. The photo was taken outside the Trump rally in Chicago, which was canceled due to heavy protester activity, last March.
According to the filing, Woods took cues from prominent alt-right Twitter personality Vox Day in identifying Boulger as the woman in the photo. The pair were working off of the standard, and unsubstantiated, conservative narrative that leftist Sanders supporters were being paid to cause a disturbance at Republican events. “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?” Woods phrased as a dog-whistle question. Vox Day’s and Woods’s tweets were both shared by Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who perpetuated the myth.
In reality, the woman in the photo was Illinois resident Birgitt Peterson. While the clarification was made within hours, Woods left his own tweet up for his 350,000-plus followers, merely stating later that it might not be Boulger in the photo.
Ten days later, Boulger’s counsel was able to get Woods to delete the post, but he did not issue a public retraction and apology as they had requested. He instead wrote, “Ms. Boulder [sic] has reached out to me and asked me to use my many followers to stop people from harassing her. I am more than happy to do so.” He then said, “Though she supports @BernieSanders, I am happy to defend her from abuse. I only wish his supporters would do the same for other candidates.”
The lawsuit claims that those statements “were false, insulting and demeaning.” They also failed to stop the harassment that Boulger received as a result of the wrongful identification, including a slew of vulgar messages (“I hope you go to one of your fucking rallies and get raped by a gaggle of thugs with AIDS!”) received online and over the phone. This past January, the complaint states, Boulger received a call and heard “what sounded like someone walking up the gravel lane leading to her house.”
Woods is being sued for defamation and invasion of privacy, and Boulger is seeking $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Woods’s lawyer, Michael Weinsten, was not available when reached for comment.
Coincidentally, Woods is a plaintiff in another Twitter defamation lawsuit, against a user known as @Abelisted, who had tweeted that the actor has a cocaine problem. Twitter was ordered by the court to turn over @Abelisted’s real identity. Woods has continued to pursue that lawsuit, even after learning that the defendant is now deceased.
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