At long last, a major wingnut talk show host may be about to face the music for his bile. Last year, Glenn Beck claimed that Abdulrahman Alharbi, a Saudi student who sustained minor injuries in the Boston Marathon bombing, helped bankroll the attacks. It turned out that Alharbi was in no way involved--but he was the subject of hateful attacks long after he was cleared. Now Alharbi is firing back. He's suing Beck for defamation and slander. Meteor Blades mentioned this on Friday's open thread, but given the ramifications this story merits fuller treatment.
“On and after April 15, Beck broadcast repeated statements distributed and published to others…identifying Alharbi as an active participant in the crimes that were committed in Boston,” Alharbi’s lawyer, Peter Haley, wrote in a six-page filing dated March 28 in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. “Beck falsely accused Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks that took place at the Boston Marathon…the statements made by Beck were false.”Read the full complaint here. Alharbi's name surfaced when he was questioned by authorities after the bombing and voluntarily agreed to let them search his apartment in Revere, five miles north of Boston. By early the next day, the media had gotten its hands on his name and address.
The court document goes on to say that because of Beck’s statements made on national media platforms, which later were syndicated to other networks, Alharbi’s reputation has been “substantially and severely” damaged. Alharbi’s lawyer said his client has been inundated with hateful messages online accusing him of being a “murderer” and “child killer,” as well as a terrorist.
Although he was completely exonerated later on Tuesday, Beck continued to smear Alharbi. 'A week after the bombing, Beck claimed that Alharbi was about to be deported to Saudi Arabia for terrorist activity, but that got kiboshed because someone was supposedly protecting him. Even after former INS special agent Bob Trent smacked Beck's theory down on Beck's own show, Beck continued claiming Alharbi was involved as late as May.
Also named as defendants are Beck's production company, Mercury Radio Arts, his television network, TheBlaze, and his radio distributor, Premiere Radio Networks. Alharbi is seeking unspecified damages, plus attorney's fees. Based on the available evidence, Beck is in a world of trouble. As a private person, Alharbi only has to prove Beck acted with negligence--and there's enough negligence here to stretch from Boston all the way to my home in Charlotte. To my knowledge, a major right-wing talk show host has never been found liable for slander or libel before. If Alharbi wins, it could potentially be the end for Beck--or at least the beginning of the end.
This suit could potentially have a ripple effect apart from Beck. Premiere, for those who don't know, is Rush Limbaugh's distributor. And we all know the beating Limbaugh has taken in the last two years.