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Gateway Pundit files for bankruptcy after election conspiracy defamation lawsuits

The Gateway Pundit, an influential website that regularly peddles falsehoods and conspiracy theories, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it faces multiple defamation suits.

In a statement on The Gateway Pundit website, Jim Hoft, the outlet's owner, blamed the "progressive liberal lawfare attacks against our media outlet" and admitted no wrongdoing. The company did not respond to emails from NPR seeking more information.

The website, founded by brothers Jim and Joe Hoft, is facing a lawsuit from Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss over false claims about election fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election that resulted in their harassment. Protect Democracy, the nonprofit representing Freeman and Moss, declined to comment on the bankruptcy announcement. The Gateway Pundit also faces a lawsuit from a former official at voting technology company Dominion Voting Systems, which was targeted by election fraud conspiracy theories in 2020.

In the statement, Hoft said the bankruptcy is a way to consolidate lawsuits against the outlet. But Chapter 11 bankruptciesare meant to help small businesses restructure, said Mark Bankston, an attorney at law firm Farrar & Ball who represented parents of slain Sandy Hook school students in a defamation suit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his outlet Infowars.

"It's not actually meant to be used as a tool of what they seem to be using it for," Bankston said. "This process is being used by defendants who are facing libel lawsuits. And in particular, it tends to be right-wing, extremist publications or individuals."

The Gateway Pundit's parent company's bankruptcy filing shows that the company has between $100,001 and $500,000 in liabilities and between $500,001 and $1 million in assets.

Jones also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after Sandy Hook families were awarded more than $1 billion in damages against him in 2022. Because of the drawn-out proceedings of the bankruptcy, the families are still waiting for compensation.

The election workers who sued The Gateway Pundit also sued former Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani, who filed for bankruptcy in December after a $148 million judgment against him.

"There's been a lot of hope recently in our legal system that certain plaintiffs are going to be able to find justice through the courts." Bankston said. "Unfortunately, these bankruptcy proceedings sort of temper that hope. There is a lot of legal process in this country that is designed to assist those who have a lot of resources to avoid paying their just debts."

The Gateway Pundit has already been accused ofdelaying legal proceedings against it. It takes time, resources and lawyers who can afford to wait to get paid to support these legal proceedings, Bankston said.

Even with delays, the costs to sites like Infowars and The Gateway Pundit from lawsuits are meaningful, Bankston said.

"Jurors are not happy when someone takes private people and spreads these lies about them and ... turns their world upside down," he said. "Juries will not forgive that when powerful people do that."

The Gateway Pundit used to enjoy massive online traffic via social media like Facebook. Like other outlets, however, it has seen its traffic drop off amid declining news consumption and industry changes including Facebook owner Meta deprioritizing news.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Corrected: June 12, 2024 at 5:09 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Gateway Pundit settled a lawsuit with a former employee of Dominion Voting Systems. That lawsuit remains ongoing.

Huo Jingnan (she/her) is an assistant producer on NPR's investigations team.