Frank VanderSloot files lawsuit against Mother Jones

Vandersloot

The Post-Falls Register is reporting today that the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., has filed a lawsuit against the magazine for “depicting him as a ‘gay-basher’.

According to the article, republished by the Idaho Statesman, VanderSloot, who  served as national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign,  is asking for, “up to $74,999 in damages”.

“The lawsuit targets portions of the article that describe VanderSloot as anti-gay, as well as Twitter posts promoting the article by author Stephanie Mencimer and magazine Co-Editor in Chief Monika Bauerlein,” reports Zack Kyle of the Post Falls Register.

You might recall that last February the Idaho Agenda received a  “take down notice” from Melaleuca attorneys for an article that attempted to draw attention to VanderSloot’s activities pertaining to Idaho’s LGBT community. The Agenda chose to comply with the notice.

That incident and others became the subject of dozens of articles that included the Mother Jones piece, one published by Slate.com’s Glenn Greenwald and coverage by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.  The Obama campaign also included VanderSloot  on its “Truth Team” website.

VanderSloot publicly responded to the criticism, which included a written response to the Greenwald article, as well as multiple appearances on Fox News.

While the term “gay bashing” does not appear in the Mother Jones article, the Post Register reports,’court documents point to Bauerlein’s Feb. 6 tweet that read: “Romney’s gay-bashing buddy runs a company that targets stay-at-home moms for misleading marketing scheme. Charming!”

VanderSloot tells Kyle,” I’ve never taken shots like this before,” and goes on to say “I think it’s particularly egregious to accuse somebody of a hate crime.”

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Daily Kos features May-Chang/VanderSloot Saga

Daily Kos blogger laserhaas has written a great post summarizing the ongoing story involving Romney finance co-chair and Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot.

You might recall that independent journalist Jody May-Chang, this blog and others were recipients of takedown notices earlier this year by attorneys working for VanderSloot’s Melaleuca company.

laserhaas does an excellent job bringing readers up to speed on the saga that includes the article by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, an eight-minute piece by MSNBC”s Rachel Maddow as well as articles posted by Forbes and Mother Jones.

Now that Romney is clearly the GOP presidential candidate nominee, it will be interesting to see just how his campaign handles the publicity.

For his part, VanderSloot has created a website dedicated to responding to his critics. www.frankvanderslootresponse.com includes his original response to the Greenwald article, a letter from the Idaho State Attorney General’s office as well as an excerpt from blog comments made by Post-Register publisher Roger Plothow.

In March, the Human Rights Campaign started a petition calling on the GOP frontrunner to remove VanderSloot from his campaign. In a letter to its supporters, the HRC called VanderSloot, “one of the most ruthlessly anti-LGBT bullies in our nation. He’s funneled money to causes that demonize LGBT people and damage our families. His lack of a moral compass includes outing an Idaho man and leading a relentless character assault against him.”

So far, there has been no response from the Romney campaign.

Click HERE to read the full post over at Daily Kos.

BuzzFeed Picks Up Frank VanderSloot Story

BuzzFeed, a national website known for its ability to cover “the viral web in realtime,” interviewed Jody May-Chang and myself for an article published on Friday regarding  Mitt Romney’s ties to Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot.

For those not familiar with the backstory, the article titled Get To Know Mitt Romney’s Most Controversial Backer, Frank VanderSloot, provides a great snapshot.

VanderSloot was thrown into the national spotlight after last month’s Salon article by columnist Glenn Greenwald. The story, which includes threats made against the Idaho Agenda, Jody May-Chang and others has since exploded into a potential campaign issue.

As we reported last week, the HRC has started a petition calling for Mitt Romney to “fire” VanderSloot as his  national finance co-chairman.

“HRC spokesman Dan Rafter tells BuzzFeed that “Mitt Romney can’t have it both ways – saying repeatedly he opposes discrimination against gay Americans but then employing Frank VanderSloot, whose harsh anti-gay views are quite clear. The Republican hopeful should immediately fire VanderSloot to show the country he means what he says,” writes BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray.

Click HERE to read the full article.

You can read Vandersloot’s response to the Greenwald Article HERE.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also covered the story HERE.

You can read filmmaker Debra Chasnof’s thoughts on the controversy HERE. 

You can read my response and challenge to Vandersloot HERE.

HRC Calls on Romney to Drop Frank VanderSloot

Image: Human Rights Campaign

The nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization is calling on GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to fire his campaign’s national finance co-chair.

In a petition sent out by the Human Rights Campaign last week, the organization told supporters,”VanderSloot helped bankroll the Prop 8 campaign, and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBT causes. He spearheaded a heinous billboard campaign against Idaho Public Television for airing content that “promote[s] the homosexual lifestyle.”

The Idaho businessman’s activities were thrown into the national spotlight after last month’s Salon article by columnist Glenn Greenwald. The story, which includes threats made against the Idaho Agenda, Jody May-Chang and others,has since exploded into a potential campaign issue.

HRC spokesman Fred Sainz tells The Advocate,”Romney’s relationship with VanderSloot “speaks volumes about how Mitt Romney truly feels about LGBT people. He added that the candidate “can no longer get away with saying he opposes discrimination against LGBT Americans while simultaneously working with someone as viciously anti-LGBT as Frank VanderSloot.”

“Your [Romney’s] campaign reflects your values — this is your moment to state once and for all that you will not tolerate discrimination against LGBT people. Fire Frank VanderSloot immediately and return the money he has donated to your campaign,” says the HRC letter.

Read the full letter and sign the petition HERE.

You can read Vandersloot’s response to the Greenwald Article HERE.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also covered the story HERE.

You can read my response and challenge to Vandersloot HERE.

My Response and Challenge to Frank VanderSloot

Frank VanderSloot has released his response to Glenn Greenwald’s Salon.com articleYou can read VanderSloot’s statement in its entirety HERE.

As one of the blogs mentioned in the Greenwald piece, I would like to offer my own perspective on a few of his points, as well as issue Mr. VanderSloot a challenge of sorts.

The first time I had ever heard of Frank VanderSloot was during the “It’s Elementary” controversy. I had only recently come out of the closet and was still trying to figure out what exactly it meant to be a gay man living in Idaho.

I remember watching the film, hope filling up inside me, thinking, if only my own teachers had taken the time to explain that it was okay to be who I was and that it was okay to have respect for others regardless of our differences, I could have been saved from years of feeling ashamed, alone and bullied.

Then came Mr. VanderSloot’s billboards and the fight over Idaho public Television’s funding for airing the documentary. I was convinced, and still am to this day, that if those like Mr. VanderSloot could only realize how much good that film could do for those of us growing up in areas like rural Idaho, there wouldn’t have been any controversy at all.

VanderSloot’s billboards read,”Should public television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children? Think about it.”

The fact that someone would spend the money to accuse the film of promoting a “lifestyle” was and is, in my mind at least, an attack on not only the science of sexuality itself, since we know that there is no such thing as a “homosexual lifestyle”, but also an attack on those who had spent our growing up years bullied, afraid and ashamed of who we are.

To this day I still consider that controversy one of my prime reasons for being involved in the equality movement.

In his letter demanding that I remove my recent article concerning VanderSloot and his ties to the Romney campaign, VanderSloot’s lawyer wrote that I had misinterpreted the billboard message. That I had”wrongfully” suggested that it was anti-gay. “An objective review…makes it clear that Mr. VanderSloot was supporting a completely different point-one dealing with only the appropriateness of the documentary’s subject matter for elementary-school-age children and its funding with tax dollars. …it is simply not true to say that Mr. VanderSloot’s statements or actions were critical of gays, or that he is anti-gay,” he wrote.

I’ll let his comment stand for itself.

The attorney’s letter went on to pick out two other points that I raised in my article. One issue dealt with the reporter who covered the Boy Scout scandal in Eastern Idaho. The other was a $100,000 donation made by his wife, Belinda VanderSloot, in support of California’s Prop 8.

Aside from the quotes from his editor, the reporter can tell his own story, if he so chooses, but the marriage issue is one I consider to be very personal.

Growing up I watched my friends, relatives and loved ones get married and make homes and lives for themselves. I too dreamed of the day when that would be possible for me.

That moment came in 2008 when the California Supreme Court ruled that a voters initiative was unconstitutional. My husband and I were among the 11,000 couples who saw their dreams of having a legally bound marriage come true.

Then along came Proposition 8. It was not only a threat to my own marriage, but to the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who were and are still waiting for the day when two gay men or two lesbian women are considered just as equal in the eyes of the law as Mr. VanderSloot and his wife.

Do I consider the donation an attack on not only my marriage, but on my sexuality?

You bet your sweet Jesus I do.

Prop 8 had everything to do with discriminating against the LGBT community. This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of every court that has heard the Prop 8 case thus far.

VanderSloot’s attorney saw it differently, writing,”the donation should be distinguished from Mr. VanderSloot’s and Melaleuca’s actions. Contrary to the implication of your article, the VanderSloot’s have publicly expressed support for numerous rights of the LGBT community.”

Mr. VanderSloot says in his response to Greenwald’s article that,”When it appears the author has an agenda, we first try a friendly approach. Only when it is evident that the author could care less about the truth and is intent on doing damage for the sake of doing damage, do we raise the possibility of legal action.”

No one called me prior to receiving the letter accusing me of making false, misleading or defamatory statements against Mr. VanderSloot. The letter was the first time I became aware that there was even any objection to my article. In fact, when I replied a few days later that I was working on a response to the letter, I received another e-mail telling me that I had to, “address the issue today or we will have to consider escalating this issue to a much more serious level.”

I chose to remove the article rather than risk finding out what that “escalation” meant.

I also invited the attorney or any other Melilucca representative to go on the record and clear up the issues I had.

That phone call never came.

There is no denying this blog has an agenda, it’s purpose is to serve the LGBTQIA community in Idaho with information, commentary and news with a focus on equality.

Although the letter from VanderSloot’s attorney theorizes that I was,”trying to sway voters away from Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign.” The truth is my only purpose with the article was to call attention to the injustices and harms done by actions I believe were committed against myself, my husband and my community.

Mr. VanderSloot writes in his response,” I have many gay friends whom I love and respect. And I believe they love and respect me. I am very close to some of these very good people. Our company has thousands of gay customers, independent marketing executives, and employees. I believe they feel welcome and valued.”

If that statement is true I would challenge him to publicly show his love and respect for ALL of Idaho’s LGBT community by asking Idaho’s legislature to add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights law.

I would challenge him to show how much he cares about us by asking his support in standing up and speaking up for marriage equality, anti-bullying measures and local LGBT programs and services.

Finally, I would challenge him to show his love and respect by allowing sites like Jody May-Chang’s and the Idaho Agenda the freedom to point out when we feel injustices have occurred against against ourselves and our community.

(LocalNews8 in Pocatello has also picked up the story. You can watch it HERE.)

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