ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CN) – The grandmother who made national headlines after being assaulted at a 2016 Trump campaign rally is suing an organization she says falsely claimed she was a paid crowd agitator planted at the event by the Democratic Party.
In a federal complaint filed Thursday in Asheville, 69-year-old Shirley Teter says James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas Action Fund circulated several videos on YouTube that claimed a group called Americans United for Change paid and trained homeless and mentally ill people to attend Trump rallies across the country and incite violence at them. Teter claims she was prominently featured in those videos.
According to the complaint, Teter was standing in a crowd on Sept. 12, 2016, gathered a block away from her home at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, where candidate Trump was holding a political rally.
While exchanging words with a Trump supporter, Teter says told the man he better learn to speak Russian if Trump won the election. This man, later identified as 73-year-old Richard Campbell, then allegedly turned and hit Teter in the face, knocking her down.
Afterward, Teter and her assault were prominently featured in national news reports, and that publicity, she says, is what inspired the Project Veritas Action Fund to use her in its videos.
She claims the fund and O’Keefe falsely claimed she is homeless, mentally ill and was paid to attend the rally to cause trouble. Teter also asserts that the YouTube videos were misleadingly edited to imply she was activist belonging to Americans United for Change.
As an example, she cites a segment of one video in which her image is shown while an audio clip of a Americans United for Change field director plays. In the clip the field director says “she’s one of our activists,” without referring to who “she” actually is.
Teter insists she is not associated with any protest group, and that she went to the rally on her own volition.
The videos also suggest Teter was responsible for her own assault, and at least one accuses her of changing her story, according to the complaint.
Teter says that the videos have been viewed tens of thousands of times since they were posted, resulting in hateful comments against her, ridicule and even death threats.
Project Veritas has allegedly ignored a letter Teter’s attorney sent in August, 2017, asking it to remove all defamatory statements about her from the videos.
As a result, Teter says, her reputation continues to be injured, and she continues suffer to emotional distress and mental anguish.
“The actions are extreme and outrageous and exceed all bounds of decency to treated by society,” the complaint states.
Teter is represented by Jonathan Sasser of Ellis & Winters of Raleigh, N.C.
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.