MANHATTAN (CN) – Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson sued the National Jewish Democratic Council for $60 million, claiming it defamed him in an article that said he “personally approved of and profited from prostitution” in a Macau resort.
Adelson sued the NJDC, its president and CEO David A. Harris, and chairman Marc R. Stanley, in Federal Court. He claims the NJDC defamed him in articles posted on its website on July 3 and July 11.
He seeks “redress for defendants’ maliciously false and defamatory statements that conveyed to the public that Mr. Adelson personally approved of and profited from prostitution in integrated resorts owned and operated by Sands China Limited, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands Corp., of which Mr. Adelson is a major shareholder, chairman and CEO.”
The complaint continues: “Defendants’ goal was to advance their perceived political interests by assassinating Mr. Adelson’s character, punishing him for exercising his right to make monetary contributions to political causes and candidates of his choice, and demeaning him within the Jewish community.”
Adelson demands $60 million in damages.
His complaint adds: “While Mr. Adelson supports open debate on issues of political concern, defendants’ false and defamatory accusations, made with actual malice, crossed the threshold from constitutionally protected speech to defamation of a public figure designed to suppress speech for which they should be held accountable.”
Adelson, 79, has made $71 million in political donations during this election cycle, according to the July 3 article on the NJDC website, which Adelson says defamed him.
Adelson objects to the article, which “demand(s) that Mitt Romney, and the rest of the Republican Party, cease accepting monetary donations from Mr. Adelson.”
He claims the article contained false and defamatory statements that “convey the unmistakable message that Mr. Adelson engaged in the exploitation of prostitutes and is worthy of public scorn and contempt.”
The July 3 article, checked this morning, stated in its second paragraph: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is calling on Mitt Romney and other 2012 Republican candidates to stop accepting donations from billionaire Sheldon Adelson in the wake of reports that the GOP mega donor personally approved of prostitution at his Macau resorts.”
The NJDC said the allegation came from a former CEO of Las Vegas Sands’ Macau casinos, who was fired in July 2010.
In his complaint, Adelson says that “the only source” for the defendants’ alleged defamation came from Steven C. Jacobs, whom he describes as “a disgruntled former employee of Sands China Limited (‘SCL’), who was terminated for cause from employment with SCL in 2010.”
Jacobs sued Adelson in Clark County Court, Las Vegas, in October 2010. In his new complaint, Adelson said Jacobs sued him seeking “millions of dollars,” in an “extortionate demand.”
In his new complaint, Adelson says that on June 27 this year, the afternoon before a status conference on Jacobs’ lawsuit, “Jacobs stated, ‘LVSC senior executives informed me that the prior prostitution strategy had been personally approved by Adelson.'”
Adelson claims that statement is “unequivocally false,” and that Jacobs knew it was false when he made.
Adelson claims the allegedly defamatory statements were republished in a July 6 article in the [nonparty] Jewish Press. He says the NJDC removed the July 3 article from its website on July 11 and replaced it.
In the NJDC’s July 11 statement, the group said: “… we don’t believe we engaged in character assassination; we stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts. Accusations against Mr. Adelson were made not by us, but by others, including Senator John McCain (R-Az.). Nonetheless, we regret the concern that this campaign has caused. And in the interest of shalom bayit (peace in our home/community), we are going to take down our petition today. …”
Adelson’s complaint indicates that he finds the alleged defamation particularly objectionable, as he says he has established Adelson Clinics for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research in Tel Aviv, Macau and Las Vegas, and that “Many of the hundreds of patients seen by the Adelson Clinics are women whose addiction has forced them into prostitution. The Adelson Clinics work to support these women, provide them with drug abuse treatment, and end their involvements in prostitution,” according to the complaint.
The NJDC posted this message on its website Wednesday, in response to Adelson’s lawsuit: “We will not be bullied into submission, and we will not be silenced by power. This is not Putin’s Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this. To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures – as we did – is wholly appropriate. Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.
“We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary. We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.”
Forbes magazine last year estimated Adelson’s wealth at just under $25 billion, making him one of the 10 richest Americans.
Adelson is represented by David Olasov, with Olasov & Hollander.