Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Activist Says James Woods Defamed Her on Twitter

A 64-year-old Ohio woman sued actor James Woods over a series of tweets he sent out during the 2016 campaign season, claiming she received threats about a post falsely identifying her as a Donald Trump supporter giving a Nazi salute.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – A 64-year-old Ohio woman sued actor James Woods over a series of tweets he sent out during the 2016 campaign season, claiming she received threats about a post falsely identifying her as a Donald Trump supporter giving a Nazi salute.

Portia Boulger, a former teacher and long-time activist for progressive causes from Chillicothe, Ohio, filed a defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit against the Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning actor in Columbus federal court.

Boulger’s case against Woods stems from a tweet in which she was falsely identified as a woman the Chicago Tribune photographed giving a Nazi salute while wearing a Trump T-shirt outside then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s cancelled Chicago campaign rally on March 11, 2016.

According to the March 3 lawsuit, several Twitter users incorrectly identified Boulger as the woman in the photograph, including science fiction author and alt-right activist Theodore Beale, known professionally as Vox Day.

The day after the Tribune first tweeted the picture, Beale’s twitter handle, @voxday, posted the image along with a photograph and caption relating to Boulger, allegedly tweeting, “The ‘trump Nazi’ is Portia Boulger, who runs the Women for Bernie.’”

Seconds after Beale’s tweet, Woods’ verified Twitter account reportedly tweeted the same combination of images with the message, “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #Bernie Sanders agitator/operative?”

According to Boulger, Woods’ tweet was then retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. with the comment, “@Namaste_zen apparently you don’t read the news.  She runs Bernie Sander’s women for Bernie site.  It’s all staged.”

While it is true that Boulger was an active volunteer and pledged convention delegate for Sanders, she is not, in fact, the woman in the picture.

The Chicago Tribune soon identified the woman in the picture as a Trump supporter living in Yorkville, Ill.

Beale tweeted out a correction saying that the woman pictured wasn’t Boulger and Donald Trump Jr. quickly removed the tweets referencing Boulger from his account, but Woods did not immediately remove the tweet and it was retweeted more than 5,000 times, according to Boulger’s lawsuit.

Boulger’s attorney then contacted Woods’ attorney and demanded that Woods delete the tweet and issue a public retraction and apology.

Woods eventually deleted the tweet 10 days later, but did not issue the public retraction and apology, Boulger claims.

Instead, Woods posted three new tweets.

“I have an opportunity to clarify something I challenged immediately when it hit Twitter.  Portia A. Boulger was NOT the ‘Nazi salute lady,” the first reportedly said.

The next tweet allegedly said, “Ms. Boulder [sic] has reached out to me and asked me to use my many followers to stop people from harassing her.  I am more than happy to do so.”

According to the complaint, the third tweet stated, “Though she supports @BernieSanders, I am happy to defend her from abuse.  I only wish his supporters would do the same for other candidates.”

“The second and third of these tweets were false, insulting and demeaning as Ms. Boulger never asked Mr. Woods to ‘reach out to my many followers to stop people from harassing her,’” Boulger’s lawsuit says.  “Rather, Ms. Boulger, through counsel, had demanded a retraction and apology.”

Boulger says she received hundreds of obscene and threatening messages on Twitter and Facebook during the time that Woods’ tweet remained posted on his Twitter account.

Some of the threats listed as examples in Boulger’s lawsuit include:

“Hi C*nt.  Just wanted to let you know the internet knows you’re the ‘f*cking bleeding cum oozing tw*t that was found giving a hitler salute and pretending to be a trump supporter.”

“Go f*ck yourself you ignorant liberal sack of sh*t, then you can go suck Bernie Sander c*ck!!!”

And, “Hope you get c*nt cancer and die.  What’s wrong? Can’t you win, honestly?  You f*cking coward!  I hope you go to one of your f*cking rallies and get raped by a gaggle of thugs with AIDS!”

Boulger also says she has received threatening phone calls.

“Those calls have continued to this day. One caller who called Ms. Boulger in January 2017 stayed on the phone without talking, while Ms. Boulger heard what sounded like someone walking up the gravel lane leading to her house,” the complaint states.

In addition to the disturbing threats, Boulger claims Woods’ defamatory tweet injured her reputation as a teacher and activist by creating the false impression that she had dishonestly attempted to injure Trump and his followers.

Boulger says Woods’ failure to promptly delete his tweet and issue a public apology caused her to suffer sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and “episodes of reasonable apprehension of personal assault or attack.”

Boulger seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

She is represented by Nathaniel Zachary West of Columbus and Joseph Sandler with Sandler Reiff in Washington, D.C.

Woods’ attorney, Michael E. Weinsten of Lavely & Singer, said in a statement that the tweets were not defamatory.

“My client is no doubt surprised by this patently bogus lawsuit.  In response to a rumor circulating on the internet about Ms. Boulgar’s [sic] alleged affiliation with a Trump rally, Mr. Woods tweeted a question seeking clarification,” Weinsten said. “On its face, that is not defamation.  In fact, Mr. Woods went out of his way to defend Ms. Boulgar against alleged harassment.  This case proves the adage ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”

Categories / Media, Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.