The U.S.’s former top cybersecurity official is suing one of the president’s lawyers for saying he should be “taken out at dawn and shot” in an insane rant on President Donald Trump’s new favorite news network.
Chris Krebs, who Trump fired in November for debunking false claims of election fraud, is suing Joe diGenova for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, according to a lawsuit filed in Maryland district court Tuesday. The New York Times first reported on the suit.
DiGenova made the comments on Newsmax in late November. “Anybody who thinks that this election went well, like that idiot Krebs, who used to be the head of cybersecurity,” diGenova said. “That guy is a Class-A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”
According to the lawsuit, Krebs had to briefly leave his home due to the threats he and his family were receiving. One of Krebs’ children asked him, “Daddy’s going to get executed?” the suit says. “Plaintiff constantly thinks to himself: ‘Will I have to walk with eyes in the back of my head for the rest of my life?’” the lawsuit adds.
The complaint says that diGenova and Newsmax “hoped to promote and encourage unlawful threats toward, and actual violence upon [Krebs] and Republicans like him—for speaking truth and performing his constitutional duties without regard to ‘party loyalty.’”
It continues: “While the willingness of... Newsmax to tell its viewers what they want to hear may serve... Newsmax’s ratings and viewership, its ‘news’ content not only risks eroding faith in our country’s democracy, but it also toes a dangerous line when such remarks call for violence against innocent individuals... who refuse to subserviently hew to the [Trump] Campaign’s false narratives.”
Earlier this month, diGenova insisted to The Daily Beast that his comments shouldn’t be construed as a death threat or violent call to action.
“Anyone who heard the interview knows that it was obviously sarcasm meant in jest,” he said. “Of course, I wish Mr. Krebs no harm whatsoever.”
When asked on Tuesday if he had any comment on the lawsuit, diGenova responded, “No.”
According to the suit, Krebs is seeking monetary damages, as well as for Newsmax to expunge the video clip where diGenova made his comments from its archives.
“No one should be targeted and defamed as a ‘traitor’ for faithfully performing the duties of public service,” Jim Walden, one of Krebs’ attorneys, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “That is what happened to Chris and to Republicans all across the country, who truthfully, and based on their substantial experience, are upholding the integrity of the election in the face of a false narrative regarding its results.”
Newsmax admitted that the comments made by diGenova on The Howie Carr Show, a Boston-based syndicated radio show that is simulcast each weekday on Newsmax, were “inappropriate”—but claimed Krebs’ lawsuit was a threat to free speech.
“Newsmax believes that claims made by Mr. Krebs in his suit of a ‘conspiracy’ and defamation against him are a threat to free speech and his legal action endangers all media organizations that seek an open discourse of ideas and news,” the network said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“Mr. diGenova is not a paid contributor to Newsmax... Mr. diGenova has appeared on Newsmax since then on two occasions stating he made the comment ‘facetiously’ and apologized.”
While Trump has peddled his debunked conspiracies about election fraud in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election—conspiracies rejected by his own Justice Department, as the lawsuit mentions—several officials in charge of administering nationwide elections have found themselves on the receiving end of threats from supporters.
Jocelyn Benson, the top elections official in Michigan, said a group of people came to her house Saturday night. Gabriel Sterling, a Republican elections official in Georgia, publicly called on Trump to denounce these conspiracies after threats were made against members of his staff. “Someone’s going to get shot,” Sterling said earlier this month.
With additional reporting by Pilar Melendez.