On May 6, Dr. Peter Hotez, often cited in the news media as an expert on vaccine safety, tweeted a fabricated claim about me. He falsely stated that I had endorsed an article on my website that encouraged people to go on the attack against him and compared him to "Mengele."
I had never even seen such an article, let alone "endorsed" it on my website or anywhere else.
Hotez then used the supposed attacks against him as the basis to go on a media tour claiming that "anti-vaxxers" and white supremacists were threatening his safety.
After being contacted by my attorney, Hotez has publicly acknowledged his mistake:
The following is a letter sent to Dr. Peter Hotez regarding his false claims on May 6.
Dear Dr. Hotez:
This law firm is First Amendment counsel to Sharyl Attkisson. We have been retained to pursue redress for your May 6, 2021 false and defamatory accusations against Ms. Attkisson on Twitter. More specifically, you knowingly, maliciously, and falsely accused Ms. Attkisson to your approximate 161,700 followers of endorsing you being doxxed and comparing you to Mengele, thereby encouraging threats against you, in an article she authored. These accusations are false and defamatory per se, and damages to Ms. Attkisson’s reputation will therefore be presumed as a matter of law. While you have taken down the offensive tweet – only after doubling and tripling down on your false claims – a takedown will provide you no cover under the law. To afford you an opportunity to mitigate the reputational harm you have caused to Ms. Attkisson, I hereby demand – as more specifically described below – that you post (and pin to your Twitter account) a complete retraction of your false accusations.
Your false and defamatory May 6, 2021 Twitter post is as follows:
You subsequently posted a series of hate mail etc. that you received, thereby conveying that Ms. Attkisson was responsible for instigating it and other threats against you:
Indeed, when the error was brought to your attention, rather than acknowledge any responsibility, you doubled down. Instead of immediately removing the false and defamatory posts, you publicly engaged with Ms. Attkisson, falsely accusing Ms. Attkisson of placing you in harm’s way through “dangerous and hurtful” conduct and falsely claiming that you had not “mentioned” her “in any writings and yet you make up all these terrible things about me.”
You also tripled down by posting the alleged article in which Ms. Attkisson “endorsed” a “call ... to contact me, providing contact info phones emails, comparing me to Mengele sending image after image of Nuremberg”:
As you knew at the time, Ms. Attkisson did none of these things. In fact, Ms. Attkisson had neither seen, heard of, nor read the “Natural News” article and its positions that you claimed she endorsed, nor was she aware of any calls to violence or hate speech against you. She still has not seen or read the article as of the date of this letter. The article you reference in no way endorses a call against you for violence or any other kind of action and in no way discloses any of your contact information. That, in defamation, constitutes knowledge of falsity and/or a reckless disregard for the truth, for which you will be held liable for both compensatory and punitive damages in the event of litigation. Cf. Palin v. New York Times Co., 940 F.3d 804, 809 (2d Cir. 2019) (defining actual malice as a statement “made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”).
The evidence of your particular brand of malice goes beyond the gold standard of actual malice – objective knowledge of falsity – however, and includes a pre-conceived narrative you seek to push and therefore a motive for your defamation, fabrication of the accusation in its entirety, and because you have refused to acknowledge that your accusations are false. Cf. Palin, 940 F.3d at 813 (finding sufficient evidence of actual malice where defendant “had a ‘pre-determined’ argument he wanted to make in the editorial”); Biro v. Conde Nast, 963 F. Supp. 2d 255, 277-78 (S.D.N.Y. 2013), aff’d, 807 F.3d 541 (2d Cir 2015) (acknowledging that “actual malice is [often] through circumstantial evidence,” “including where,” without limitation, “a story is fabricated,” “the defendant knows or suspects that it has committed an error and refuses to acknowledge it,” and/or “has a motive for defaming the plaintiff.”). Moreover, you consciously altered the substance and meaning of Ms. Attkisson’s article on which you relied, also indicative of actual malice. Masson v. New Yorker Mag., Inc., 510 U.S. 496, 511-25 (1991) (explaining significance of intentionally altering source quote and holding that a defendant may have actual malice when it deliberately alters quote, “which alteration results in a material change in the meaning conveyed”); Westmoreland v. CBS Inc., 596 F. Supp. 1170, 1176 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (malice may be established when defendant “knowingly or recklessly misstates the evidence to make it seem more convincing or condemnatory than it is” or if “it distorts statements of witnesses so that they seem to say more than in fact was said”).
Perhaps most offensive about your tweets is the extent to which they reveal just how hypocritical your accusations against Ms. Attkisson are. You associated her with “white nationalists,” “Nazi and Nuremberg obsessions,” and “a bunch of satanic stuff,” etc., which you knew, expected, and should have reasonably foreseen would result in the very same reputational harm and hate messages about which you, yourself, were complaining. Indeed, within a short period of time, your initial tweet received significant interactions and was amplified by other significant Twitter accounts, exponentially.
While our social media preservation efforts are not complete and there are numerous instances evidencing the direct harm your false and defamatory accusations caused, below are some examples.
Tennis icon Martina Navratilova responded to your tweet by telling her 348,800 followers that your accusations would reveal criminal conduct by Ms. Attkisson:
Others accused Ms. Attkisson of being a conspiracy theorist and “evil,” said she should be “fired,” and took it for granted that she was the person who “instigated this” on you:
In short, you instigated upon Ms. Attkisson the very same brand of hate messages and harm that you were complaining about yourself, and were accusing her of engendering about you. Your false claims also attracted media attention. For example, MSNBC contacted Ms. Attkisson’s employer for comment on your accusations. In a subsequent campaign of media appearances (see e.g. https://twitter.com/KHOUStephanie/status/1391548483119853568), you allowed this false narrative against Ms. Attkisson to be perpetuated.
While you cannot undo what has already been done and that damage cannot be fully mitigated, we hereby demand on Ms. Attkisson’s behalf that you immediately post to your Twitter a written statement as follows: “On May 6, 2021, I falsely stated that Ms. Sharyl Attkisson was involved in creating or otherwise endorsed efforts to have the public contact me or compare me to Mengele. That was wrong, and I apologize to Ms. Attkisson.” We further demand that you pin that tweet to the top of your homepage on Twitter for a period of 7 days and make reasonable efforts to tag in your retraction post all of those who commented or shared your original tweet, as well as the Twitter account of all media outlets at which you made an appearance on this topic.
If you wish to avoid litigation, please confirm to me in writing that this has been accomplished and provide to me a link to your retraction post within 12 hours of your receipt of this letter.
This letter does not constitute a complete or exhaustive statement of our client’s rights, claims, remedies, and contentions. Nothing stated herein is intended as, nor should be deemed to constitute, a waiver or relinquishment of any of our client’s rights or remedies, whether legal or equitable, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.
G. Taylor Wilson
Read the full letter below:
Good luck Sharyl! Hotez is the lowest of the low! Please get retribution!
Unleash the attorneys of defamation!
Crush this little weasel.
Colin Bastable says
Good luck getting a straight judge!
Allison derbin says
He won't apologize. He's in this for cash, not ethics.
hortez is illuminaughty says
HE's in the illuminatti club,,, they like baby sacrifice and all forms of shameful abominations....
doug myers says
Holy smokes, what is WRONG with people?!?
Sure hope you are successful in your legal efforts against this "doctor." Given the way the judiciary is acting these days, though, one never knows.
Thank you for being one of the very, very best in journalism. If other journalists conducted themselves similarly, our country would be in a very different place right now...
God bless and keep you!
I just hate you have to spend so much money defending yourself. It is ridiculous how people come after you just for showing two sides of a story. You encourage us to think for ourselves and I can’t figure out why so many people have a problem with that.
steve c says
These people have lost their minds. Every day is a lower low. I thought they found rock bottom but apparently not.
Ugh, so sorry this has happened to you, as if you hadn't had enough with the DOJ and IRS! Really speaks to this man's poor character. The Dark simply can't stand the Light, can it?
These un-American malicious slandering and libelous attacks must be stopped to protect the free exchange of ideas.
Peter G says
I believe you're doing the right thing Sharyl, demand the apology and if it doesn't come, take it to the Courts. A lot of people have been getting away with too much stuff, and I believe this is the only approach to try and fix the wrong, The Courts.
Ann Furr says
Sharyl The Epoch Times is looking for journalists in the Mid Atlantic area..
Their are only 3hree Thing's we cannot Hide for very long;
The Sun, the Moon... &'d the Truth..... period
Wade Peterson says
If he wants to go to the mat on this, there are many who would support your pursuit. Don't hesitate to crowd fund.
Jennifer Wright says
Sharyl, your brand of journalism gives me hope. You are one of my heroines.
Good for you for fighting this abuse
Keep plugging away at them! It's the only way to stop these absurd individuals' insane and inane comments.
Anyone who is not 100% onboard the Democrat (Leftist) agenda must be silenced. I will not speculate on the Democrat agenda, but I will say whatever it may include, it must be done before the 2022 midterm elections. They know what will happen if the people vote in a fair and free election, which is put them out of office.
Good Luck Sharyl,
Thank you Sharyl, your fight helps us all.
Deborah Sullivan says
Lovin’ it. You deserve recompense, Sharyl. Money is important here. You are doing good work & money will help you fight more scum like this. WE need you. We will crowd fund if you need it. Money is all people like this understand.
I want to thank you for sharing this painful experience with us. It couldn’t have been easy. Prayers abound, Sharyl. This has taken far too long, but it seems finality is on the horizon.
Best of everything to you & your family,
Marco Moreno says
Sharyl has had a GoFundMe page for some time: https://gofund.me/2eb9ae69
EVISCERATE that slovenly sociopath
Excellent work by your legal team. Best wishes.
I think that Dr. Hotel will likely not apologize. I hate that we live in a world where people can’t simply be honest. You don’t have to agree with someone, but you should not lie. I think you should sue. It seems it should be a simple matter to settle in court. It is unfortunate that Baylor University has not taken action to correct this wrong by one of their professors.
R Janics says
Given Dr, Peter Hortez's history and relationship with medicine and vaccines, I can't imagine anyone thinking he would not lie and slander people who disagree with him and call out his fraud on Americans and children. Good for you Sharyl for swiftly hitting and fighting back with teeth!!!
Sue the pants off that shill!
The devil looses his most despicable agents and ferocious firepower against those who shine brightest and most effectively against him. The attacks prove that you are unquestionably on the right side. The devil doesn't waste his time or ammunition firing away at a sinking ship. You are rising.
Paul C Abbinante says
It is obvious that Twitter is complicit by putting the garbage out in the first place. Taking it down and having him post an apology doesn't cut it. He has done the damage and his fan idiots won't change. Prosecution through the courts is the best answer. God bless and good luck.
Bob Smith says
The so called Dr. cannot bother with looking into what was actually said/posted before spouting off moronic claims?
And all those others who just blindly assumed he was telling the truth?
Conduct a little investigative questioning before taking action.
This is how fake news gets around.
The Dr. and all that responded to him are part of what is wrong with society today.
Peter G says
You're a great American and investigative reporter. But you are also a very good person. Twitter is a communication land mine that I have easily avoided but I understand that it is an essential tool for you in your work. "A five-time Emmy Award winner and recipient of the Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting" is impressive.
All the best in the future in the courts and in life.
Peter G says
For the record.
I'm a different Peter G. to the fellow above who posted in May. But we do think alike on this issue.
Hi Sharyl A,
I skimmed Hotez's twitter to see if he ever posted an apology/explanation; could not find one.
Worse, others are piling on, continuing the obvious lie, and not just by retweeting, but actually creating new content: https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/anti-vaccine-sharyl-attkisson-threatens-to-sue-dr-peter-hotez-for-defamation/
They must smugly presume that readers aren't going to investigate for themselves, and sadly, most of their readers probably won't. Unquestioned assumptions are dangerous, eventually.
I'm guessing Hotez and the writer at "skeptical raptor" and others in this gang of ()*($#$* can rely on pharma$ to cover their legal costs.
Your integrity shines even brighter. Thank you so much, Sharyl. Attkisson. You always seem unflappable but I'm sure there are days when it must get to you.
Rob Dooley says
I had to see this disgusting person on the local Houston news- I no
Longer watch. From the first time it was obviously he was an extreme leftist politically. I was so upset to hear the mandatory vaccine for all Houston Methodist employees and the 100 so that had a judge so far deny them their rights to chose or be fired. This evil
Man had to have everything to do with this. I will never use again or recommend Houston Methodist to anyone.
So - what is the current status of your action? Has Hotez done what was demanded or anything close to it? Where are you on further actions? Are you pursuing the issue? Has Navratilova or any of the other "pile-ons" retracted their comments/statements? Enquiring minds want to know.
Sorry this horrible man has crossed your path Sharyl! Those who follow you know you would never use such tactics, and I hope you don't have to spend much of your time on this loser!? Be well,we have your back!
Hit back (legally and figuratively) twice as hard!!!
Susan Doucleff says
I have scrolled through Peter Hotez's tweets and, from what I can see, the apology is not there, nor has he followed the other demands in your attorney's letter. Did I miss something?
He's a monster. I hope this isn't the end of this. Don't let this reptile-brained sociopath slither away with this weakness non-apology.
Janice Eggert says
I just listened to a talk last week by Dr Hotez for my continuing medical education. He was presented as enough of a vaccine expert to instruct other doctors. He obviously felt his views were the one truth. How far medicine has fallen!
Shayna Jay says
Dr Hotez has been lying to the public on twitter. When called out he uses people as target practice for his followers. Not all of us are as fortunate to have a platform like Sharyl’s to fight back. Thank you for using yours to defend the truth!
Thomas B says
Thank you for fighting back
"I promptly deleted the post when it was brought to my attention"
Gee, I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. How about NOT posting something that is a lie? Oh, but that is really difficult for those on the left isn't it? They thrive on fake news. Put the lies and fabrications on the front page and post the retraction days later or on page 19.