SEATTLE (CN) – United States Mission Corp. claims a Seattle news station defamed it in a broadcast accusing it of sending “a bevy of historically violent felons, burglars and robbers” door to door for donations. The California-based nonprofit claims KIRO-TV reported, falsely, that U.S. Mission would “typically load up a van-full of recent transients and known criminals, then drop them off in various neighborhoods,” for a “pay-to-stay plan that requires door-to-door panhandling.”
U.S. Mission claims KIRO posted the story on its website on Feb. 2 and broadcast it on Feb. 5 under the headline, “Jailhouse Used to Find Door-to-Door Solicitors.”
“KIRO TV asserted that its reporter Chris Halsne went ‘undercover to reveal the motives and tactics of the United States Mission,'” according to the complaint in King County Court.
“The news story contained the assertion that ‘(f)or years, when a criminal was kicked loose from the King County Jail, he was handed a flyer that lists places to live. However, just this week, the county axed United States Mission from that referral list after our investigation exposed how operators of the mission have a pay-to-stay plan that requires door to door pan-handling.'”
KIRO reported that it found through public records that “plenty of felons” lived at the Mission house. “On top of two sex offenders, we found guys with burglary, robbery, attempted arson, drug manufacturing, assault and domestic violence convictions,” KIRO reported, according to the complaint.
The Mission claims the station falsely reported that “United States Mission operators call their solicitors ’emissaries of Christ.'” And it claims KIRO asserted that the Mission’s conduct “raises the question if this organization might be shrouding their panhandling in religious free speech.”
KIRO reported comments from an unidentified “mother of four” who allegedly gave “a guy from the Mission money fearing that if she didn’t, he’d ‘do something’ in retaliation” and said that “for all she knew the Mission’s housing facility ‘could be a house of pedophiles,'” according to the complaint.
KIRO published a second story on March 2, falsely alleging that the “self-proclaimed church recruits felons, some with violent criminal histories,” and reported that it “discovered the kinds of guys coming to your door are basically the kind right out of jail,” the complaint states.
U.S. Mission says it is not true that it “deliberately recruited violent criminals to solicit donations to the organization” and that a “significant proportion of its solicitors have criminal records as violent felons.”
The Mission says its “reputation has been injured, and its ability to collect donations has been harmed.”
It seeks damages for defamation. It is represented by James Lobsenz with Carney, Badley and Spellman.