BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – The image is stark: a woman clad in denim and a bright red MAGA hat, her mouth agape and her hand at her throat, as a hoodie-wearing Latino stands across from her, his eyes and lips closed in an expression of forbearance that seems to belie his youth.
“You are going to be the first deported,” its caption read on Twitter. “Dirty Mexican.”
The post says these were just a few of the things being shouted at the 14-year-old in the picture because of his defense of immigrants.
The only problem is that the apparent antagonist in the image is herself a daughter of immigrants. Video footage of the city council meeting in Simi Valley, California, where the photo was taken also shows the boy and woman, Roslyn La Liberte, hugging after their exchange.
Filing suit in Brooklyn, where Reid lives, La Liberte says the post has caused her to receive death threats among “hundreds if not thousands of hate messages. She wants Reid to pay her punitive damages.
“Reid made her false accusations for the improper purpose of advancing her own professional and political agenda at the expense of La Liberte’s reputation and privacy,” the complaint states.
Represented by attorneys David Olasov and L. Lin Wood, of Manhattan and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively, La Liberte says that Reid had a duty as a respected journalist to verify what the photo depicted before she shared it.
“Reid set out to destroy La Liberte because she disagrees with La Liberte’s MAGA hat and the beliefs Reid ascribes to those wearing that hat conflict with her ideology,” the complaint states.
Two days after sharing the post, Reid tried to make amends. “It appears I got this wrong,” Reid tweeted. “My apologies to Mrs. La Liberte and Joseph.”
But La Liberte says this “supposed ‘retraction’ was evasive and equivocal.”
“She failed to state what ‘this’ is and what she got ‘wrong,’” the complaint states. “She included the word ‘appears’ to avoid commitment to the truth.”
La Liberte also gives more context to what the photo captured, saying it was the boy who approached her, inquiring about whether she supported the widely reviled policy rolled out this spring by the Trump administration of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.
“La Liberte immediately advised that her own parents witnessed separation of families for three years when they were held prisoner in Indonesia by the Japanese during World War II, and that La Liberte would never be in favor of such a policy,” the complaint states.
This account corresponds to a one-minute clip of the meeting that was posted to YouTube. Before the footage ends with the boy and La Liberte sharing a hug, a woman puts her hand over the camera lens. “Please don’t record my minor son,” she says. “They’re having a civil conversation.”
Joseph Luevanos, the boy from the meeting, later defended La Liberte in an interview with the local news affiliate Fox 11.
“I heard some people were boycotting this woman’s business,” he said. “I don’t want that that because she was being civil. She doesn’t deserve it because she was giving her opinion at a place where everyone should be able to say their peace.”
Fox 11 interviewed La Liberte for the piece as well.
“I’m not an evil person. I’m a mother of five,” she said. “I wasn’t really doing anything to him and everyone thought I was and that makes me really sad. It makes me really sad that I’m so vilified.”
Reid, a frequent critic of President Trump, has previously come under attack for old homophobic blog posts, as well as posts promoting 9/11 conspiracy theories and an image where the head of Senator John McCain was Photoshopped onto an image of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho.
La Liberte says Reid’s bias is well documented.
“Reid dismissed the effect her false accusations would have on La Liberte in favor of her own gain,” the complaint states.
“Reid’s actions were also born out of her personal animus and dislike of President Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and supporters of each, including those wearing MAGA hats.”
Reid’s MSNBC program “AM Joy” airs on Saturdays. An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit, and the network is not a party to the complaint. Reid’s attorney, John Reichman of Wachtel Missry, has not responded to an email seeking comment.