WILLIAMSON – Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has filed a $12 billion lawsuit claiming saying national media outlets and leading Republicans intended to defame him in his 2018 U.S. Senate bid.
Blankenship filed the lawsuit March 14 in Mingo Circuit Court against Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and a host of others, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“The lawsuit is a defamation claim,” Blankenship said. “The suit makes clear that the purpose of Fox and other major media outlets defaming me was to impact the outcome of the May 2018 Republican Primary Election in West Virginia.
“The lawsuit also makes clear that the purposeful and illegal defamation was carried out as a result of collusion with and encouragement from Republican government officials.
The complaint alleges the defamation was planned by Republican U.S. Senators, members of the NRSC and “perhaps others” before the May 2018 primary. The complaint calls it a case of “Weaponized Defamation.”
“The plan apparently included the development of a ‘menu list of items to stop Blankenship’ from winning the West Virginia Republican Primary,” Blankenship said. “We allege that meetings were initiated by Republican Leaders over concern that I would win the election for the Republican nomination for the West Virginia U.S. Senate Seat.”
He says the defendants repeatedly referred to him as a convicted felon, noting that former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Andrew Napolitano said Blankenship had been convicted of manslaughter on Fox News.
In 2015, Blankenship was convicted of one federal misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards. The federal jury found him not guilty of securities fraud and not guilty of making false statements after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in Raleigh County that left 29 miners dead in 2010. Both of those charges were felonies.
“The Obama Department of Justice cheated in every way imaginable to convict me of false felony charges and they failed to do so, Blankenship said. “Major media outlets throughout the United States, including defendants in this case, reported at the time that I was convicted of only a misdemeanor. Some also later reported that I was sent to prison for a misdemeanor.
“Additionally, I made clear in the nationally televised Fox debate that I was sent to prison for a misdemeanor. In other words, we know that the defendants knew and even reported that I was convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony at the time of the conviction.”
Blankenship noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and other senators expressed to the media that they did not want him to win the election.
“In reaction to my possibly winning the election, a Political Action Committee apparently controlled by Senator Mitch McConnell launched a $1.3 million negative and false ad campaign against me,” Blankenship said. “However, in the words of the media, I continued to ‘surge’ toward the lead in the race. In fact, I took the lead in most polls including polls taken by my opponents.
He claims the GOP then went to the media for help. That includes Napolitano, who had heard cases by West Virginia Attorney General and New Jersey native (and fellow Republican Senate candidate) Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey eventually won the Republican nomination, but lost to incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in the 2018 general election.
“My campaign manager immediately informed Napolitano that I had never been convicted of a felony nor had I ever gone to prison for manslaughter,” Blankenship said. “Both Fox and Napolitano failed to retract or correct the statement prior to the election.
“Others on Fox including Neil Cavuto and Stephanie Hamill also told their viewing audiences that I was a felon in the days leading up to the election. Commentators on CNN and MSNBC, among others, and journalists working for the Washington Post and others, made the same defamatory comments.”
Blankenship blames government officials for controlling the national media.
“We have documented not only dozens of media statements saying ‘Blankenship is a felon’ in the days leading up to the election, but also afterward when I was attempting to gain access to the fall ballot as a Constitution Party candidate,” he said. “It is obvious that calling me a felon at these times had as its purpose preventing me from becoming a United States Senator and depriving West Virginia voters of a fair election.
“The purpose is made even more clear by the fact that we have yet to find a single time that the national media called me a felon prior to and just before the election. The felon statements were all made after United States government officials began to express concern that I would win the race.”
Blankenship also called out “mega size American corporations” for their role in media.
“As just one example, AT&T which most Americans think of as being in the telephone business, owns CNN,” Blankenship said. “If these companies are allowed to own television networks whose reporters purposefully slander candidates for the United States Senate, they need to be held responsible for corrupting federal elections.
“Fox, the Washington Post and their individual employees are very influential in the public arena and they must be severely punished when they cause American elections to be corrupted. Particularly, when they are encouraged by United States government officials to do so.”
Blankenship also said he thinks the public and the U.S. Department of Justice should ask more questions about the 2018 primary.
“Matters the DOJ should at least consider investigating include among others whether political meetings were illegally held in U.S. government buildings,” he said. “They should also investigate whether the delay in invalidating my clearly corrupt misdemeanor conviction was related to Republican efforts to ‘stop Blankenship’ from becoming a U.S. Senator.
“Perhaps the most ominous thing needing investigation is why my efforts to invalidate my misdemeanor conviction were stalled just before the election. Then, why shortly after the election my efforts to get the conviction invalidated were delayed again and again as the case was moved to Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. Later, it was moved to the Department of Justice office in Ohio. As of now it has been on the desk of a federal magistrate judge for three and a half months.”
Blankenship also say there is “much more” to the story that he isn’t ready to discuss.
“You can bet that the defendants in this case will fight hard to defend their actions and will deny the truth,” he said. “But this lawsuit raises very serious issues. Collusion among government officials and the national media to corrupt a federal election is as serious as Russian collusion to do the same.
In my opinion, such matters of government dishonesty represent the single biggest risk to our county’s survival.”
Blankenship seeks general and special damages for defamation, punitive damages, a permanent injunction against the defendants prohibiting republication of the defamatory statements and requiring removal of the statements from public access, court costs, attorney fees and other relief. He seeks $2 billion in compensatory damages and $10 billion in punitive damages.
The complete list of defendants includes Napolitano, Cavuto, Hamill, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, the NRSC, 35th Inc., Associated Press, Boston Globe Media Partners, Breitbart News Network, Clarity Media Group, The Washington Times, Tribune Publishing Company, Los Angeles Times Communications, WP Company dba The Washington Post, Chris Hayes, Sara Elizabeth Cupp, Bradley Blakeman, John Layfield, Kevin McLaughlin, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Michael Patrick Leahy, Josh Dawsey, Jenna Johnson, Ben Wolfgang, Michael Warren, Cathleen Decker and 50 John Does.
Blankenship is being represented by Jeffrey S. Simpkins of Simpkins Law in Williamson as well as Eric P. Early, Jeremy Gray and Kevin Sinclair of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae in Los Angeles.
Mingo Circuit Court case number 19-C-26