After Dean Obeidallah wrote a Daily Beast article condemning President Trump’s approach to white supremacist terror in 2017, the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer website falsely accused Obeidallah of being behind an ISIS attack.
Now The Daily Stormer’s founder is being forced to pay him millions for the smear.
Obeidallah, a comedian and radio host, sued Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin for defamation, and on Wednesday a judge ordered Anglin to pay $4.1 million in damages.
“The judge apparently found what they did so atrocious he gave them the most he could in punitive damages,” Obeidallah told The Daily Beast.
He said he plans on giving the money to organizations that combat bigotry.
“This was never about collecting money. If I collect a penny from the Nazis, I’m not going to keep their money. I’m going to give it to organizations that fight hate and bigotry, the very groups Nazis despise.”
Anglin, who has been on the lam for more than a year, didn’t testify, although his father did. The ruling comes as the latest legal strike against Anglin, who is currently avoiding another lawsuit by a Jewish woman who received death threats after Anglin attacked her on his site.
In Obeidallah’s case, the harassment started after he wrote an article entitled, “Will Donald Trump Ever Say the Words ‘White Supremacist Terrorism’?”
“We already had three to four acts of violence, murders, by people who were self-proclaimed white supremacists. The thesis of my article was that, during his campaign Trump demanded we say ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ Why won’t he say the words ‘white supremacist terrorism?’ said Obeidallah, who is Muslim.
“That got the eye of Andrew Anglin at the Daily Stormer who wrote an article the next day quoting my article and smearing me in the first line as an ISIS mastermind. They fabricated tweets that looked real, that said I was involved in the Manchester bombing.”
The doctored tweets appeared on the Stormer, a once-popular website that received approximately 3.18 million page views while the article was active, according to Obeidallah’s lawsuit. (The Stormer lost significant standing after it was kicked off its old webhost.)
Stormer readers piled on, sending Obeidallah death threats. The attacks took a toll on him, he said. Whereas Obeidallah once had few reservations about meeting fans, he said he’s now more cautious about scheduling meet-ups with people who reach out online.
Juvaria Khan, a senior staff attorney with Muslim Advocates who helped Obeidallah in his case, said the court’s decision sent a strong message about the consequences of hate speech.
“We live in a climate where people feel emboldened to convey their bigoted views against marginalized communities including American Muslims,” Khan said. “This case is a very significant victory. We’re very proud of our client Dean for standing up and showing that violence and bigotry will not be tolerated.”
Obeidallah said he hopes the win can be a “roadmap” for people from other marginalized groups who seek legal action against white supremacists.
“The idea is about sending a message: If you attack these groups you despise, in my case Muslims, or Jews, or the LGBT community, or African-Americans, we are not going to cower,” he said.
“We’re going to hold you accountable by going to the federal courts and suing you. And we’re going to win that judgment against you.”