BROOKLYN (CN) – Two brothers claimed that Fox TV defamed them as terrorists after a criminal complaint against a third brother was unsealed. Both plaintiffs say they have been gainfully and peaceably employed in Brooklyn for years.
Walid Elhanafi and Mohamed Elhanafi sued Fox TV, its reporter Luke Funk, the Pay-O-Matic Check Cashing Corp. and Western Union, in Kings County Court.
The brothers say that on its evening news show of April 30, 2010, Fox TV and Funk reported the unsealing of an indictment of Wesam Elhanafi, a Brooklyn resident accused of traveling to Yemen to support al-Qaida. They say the report remains posted on Fox’s Internet site, and that the story “stated and portrayed the plaintiff(s) and being involved in Al-Qaeda terrorist activities and clearly implied that said plaintiff(s) used a Pay-O-Matic/Western Union check cashing/money transferring location (located at 2107 Bath Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11214) for the purposes of wiring funds to Al-Qaeda terrorists.” (All parentheses as in complaint.)
The complaint continues: “The news segment represented and identified plaintiff(s) (who are not public figures and who never gave permission or authority to any defendant herein for use or publication of any photo identification) by displaying copies of their driver’s licenses/photo id (wrongfully obtained); the news segment was made of and concerning plaintiff(s); and was so understood by those who viewed the news segment. …
“The news segment clearly implies and states that plaintiff(s) used the defendant(s) Pay-O-Matic and Western’s facility to assist in providing material support to Al-Qaeda, the crime which plaintiff(s) brother (NOT PLAINTIFF(S) THEMSELVES) has been accused of.” (Parentheses and capitalization in original.)
In the broadcast segment, still available on the Internet, a Fox reporter said the Western Union office was frequented by supporters of terrorism, and that “The Elhanafi family used this Western Union store to cash everyday checks and wire money abroad, but nothing illegal.”
The screen then flashed photographs of the brothers’ driver’s licenses and banking receipts.
The brothers say that Western Union Financial Services and Pay-O-Matic gave Fox their IDs and other documents, in breach of their fiduciary duties.
“Defendant(s) Fox and Luke Funk intended and was understood by their viewers that by displaying the plaintiff’s identification cards and driver’s licenses they were stating and implying that plaintiffs were also involved with the crimes alleged to have been committed by their brother, to wit supporting terrorist activities and terrorism,” the complaint states.
The brothers say the implication is false. Walid Elhanafi has worked as a building and zoning consultant for 15 years, and Mohamed Elhanafi as a City University of New York investigation specialist for 8 years, they say. Each says he has “a good reputation, both generally and in his occupation.”
They add: “The news broadcast and circulation on the internet by the defendant(s) Fox and Luke Funk, concerning the plaintiffs was false and defamatory. It clearly exposes plaintiffs to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it portrays them and tends to expose them as terrorists and/or terrorist sympathizers/abettors, when there is no truth to said allegations.”
They say the broadcast was “grossly irresponsible” because there were no criminal complaints against them.
“Plaintiffs have been publicly disgraced and humiliated, have been injured in their good names and reputations in the community in which they reside and throughout the entire area in which the publication and circulation occurred, and have sustained mental and physical anguish and suffering, to their damage,” the complaint states.
They seek damages and costs. They are represented by Robert Ryba.