(CN) – A South Carolina man claims in court that he was falsely accused of punching a protester at a September Donald Trump rally and then slandered in a television report about the alleged incident.
In a federal complaint filed Wednesday in Asheville, North Carolina, Richard Campbell says he and his wife Maxine traveled to the state on Sept. 12, 2016, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, attend a music festival and go to a Trump rally.
Campbell says as he, his wife and other Trump supporters left the rally, they were confronted by about 100 protestors, including defendant Shirley Teter.
“The protestors, many of whom were yelling profanities at the exiting Trump rally attendees, created a hostile environment and one which would reasonably create apprehension and fear,” the complaint states. “Defendant Teter contributed to this hostile environment as she physically grabbed at rally attendees, screamed at attendees, and otherwise attempted to intimidate attendees.”
Campbell says he and his wife were walking calmly toward their car, when Teter grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him to the ground.
As she did so, the complaint says, she lost her balance and fell. She then processed to loudly accuse Campbell of hurting her.
As she did so, Campbell says, a crowd of her fellow protesters surrounded he and his wife, yelling insults at them until the police arrived at the scene.
According to the complaint, “When interviewed by the Asheville Police Department officers, Defendant Teter knowingly provided false information to officers and claimed that she had been ‘punched’ in the face by Plaintiff without provocation.”
Campbell says despite her claim, Teter had suffered only a superficial abrasion to her left elbow during her fall. However, he says, to bolster her assault claim, she went to a local hospital where she claimed to have suffered trauma to her face and ribs from being ‘punched’ by Plaintiff and was in need of emergency medical care.
“Defendant Teter was examined and released that same night,” the complaint says.
Campbell says after the event, several social media and news outlets began to question began to question why he hadn’t been arrest for assault. He suggests the Asheville Police Department eventually buckled to public pressure and issued a warrant for his arrest.
On Sep. 13 2016, WLOS News 13 aired a story on the incident entitled “Deplorable? 69-year-old woman punched in face by Trump supporter outside NC rally.”
WLOS reporter Aaron Adelson, also named a defendant in the lawsuit, posted tweets about the story.
“In the very headline of the Sept. 13, 2016 news reports, WLOS News 13 refers to Plaintiff as a ‘Deplorable’ person which is defamatory to Plaintiff on its face,” the complaint says.
The WLOS September 13 claimed, “After the rally, Teter experienced something she had never seen in all of her protests. Peace teetered over into something else. ‘I said ‘You better learn to speak Russian, and I said, ‘The first two words are going to be ha ha.’ He stopped in his tracks, and he turned around and just cold-cocked me.”
Campbell says the story was later picked up by other news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The los Angeles Times.
Teter also subsequently appeared in an online video produced by Moveon.org where she said the plaintiff “belted me in the jaw.”
Campbell says defendant Sinclair Communications, owner of WLOS, produced four follow-up stories that further defamed him.
The charges against Campbell were dropped by the Buncombe County District Attorney on April 21.
But Campbell says even the coverage of the charges being dropped slandered him because they were worded in such a way as to imply the assault happened.
The story on WLOS website was also linked to the station’s earlier, slanderous coverage, Campbell says.
Since then, the station has made some minor corrections to its original coverage, but it has refused to retract the stories, the complaint says.
Campbell seeks $75,000 in damages for assault and battery, malicious prosecution by Teter, libel and slander, and negligence.
He is represented by William Loose of Asheville.
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.