Man Can't Sue 'Shitty Media Men' List Creator for Emotional Harm, Judge Rules

On Friday, a federal judge dealt a significant blow to writer Stephen Elliott's $1.5 million lawsuit against "Shitty Media Men" list creator Moira Donegan.

by Marie Solis
Mar 4 2019, 6:33pm

A federal judge in New York dealt a significant blow to writer Stephen Elliott's $1.5 million lawsuit against "Shitty Media Men" list creator Moira Donegan on Friday, when she ruled that he has no grounds to sue her for emotional distress, according to Jezebel.

The judge, Lashann Dearcy Hall, likewise had little sympathy for Elliott's claims that tweets and social media posts from Donegan, allegedly expressing negative views about men, should have any bearing on his case against her.

"Your Honor, respectfully, with regard to the Defendant’s article,” Elliott's attorney, Nicholas Lewis, said in court Friday, referring to a first-person essay by Donegan in The Cut, “the statements regarding ‘I hate men’ and ‘I’m enjoying the witch-hunt’ are relevant for her, I guess — belie the claims in the article that this was done—”

Interrupting Lewis, Hall said: "Just for the record, let's assume she hates them. I don’t see how you can go from her generalized hatred of men to a reasonable inference of malice with regard to your client, which is what you’d have to establish.”

In a statement to Jezebel, Donegan's lawyer, civil rights attorney Roberta Kaplan, emphasized that even if Donegan did hate men as a group, it wouldn't mean that she had singled out Elliott for inclusion on the list.

"Our client Ms. Donegan is far too sophisticated a thinker to go around saying that she or anyone else actually 'hates men,'" Kaplan said. "But what the Judge said on Friday is that even if it were true that Ms. Donegan hated men in general, that still would not be enough since Mr. Elliott has not (and cannot allege) that she hated Mr. Elliott in particular and that she therefore had a reason to lie about him."

Kaplan didn't immediately respond to Broadly's request for comment.

Elliott leveled the suit against Donegan in October, alleging that she and the more than two dozen other women who contributed to the Shitty Media Men list had published false accusations about him, including "rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion," and "unsolicited invitations to his apartment."

In the initial legal complaint, Elliott said the "inflammatory false statements" included on the spreadsheet were damaging to his "reputation and good name."

But Elliott has since experienced multiple roadblocks in his legal battle against Donegan. In January, the law firm representing Google LLC rejected a request from Elliott's lawyers to turn over every draft of the "Shitty Media Men" list, which had been circulated privately via Google spreadsheet. Google attorney Randy Tyler called the lawyers' request "objectionable," "invalid," and "unduly burdensome" in a memo obtained by The Cut.

Suing Donegan for defamation may be Elliott's last remaining legal recourse, but it appears to be a faulty one as well. According to Jezebel, Hall said suing Donegan on those grounds would require his attorneys to prove "actual malice" on the part of Donegan, and amend their original complaint to includes arguments to that end.

For More News Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Kaplan said she feels certain Elliott's attorneys will fall short of proving Donegan committed defamation by including his name on the list, a document Donegan said she created so women could have a space "to share their stories of harassment and assault without being needlessly discredited or judged."

"The Court held that Mr. Elliot had failed to plead the remaining claims of defamation ... although he has until March 8 to decide whether to try replead that claim," Kaplan told Jezebel. "We are pleased with the Court’s rulings, and are confident that this case will soon be over once and for all since there is no version of the facts that could possibly state a viable claim of defamation against Ms. Donegan here.”