Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dannel Malloy is facing a slander suit by a fellow Democrat for saying that she made anti-Semitic comments.
The lawsuit was filed by former Congressional candidate Lisa “Lee” Whitnum, a Greenwich resident who said she made statements that were truthful, not anti-Semitic.
On the day before the August 2008 Democratic primary between Whitnum and now-U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in the Fourth Congressional District, Malloy held a press conference to say that voters should support Himes over Whitnum. The comments by Malloy at the press conference on August 11, 2008 were broadcast in lower Fairfield County by Channel 12, the top local cable television news station in the area.
Whitnum has strongly criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, and the decisions by the U.S. Congress to award billions in funding annually to Israel. She has written a book that she says will be published in July with the title, “Anti-AIPAC, not Anti-Semitic: Breaking the Israel Lobby’s Control – A Patriot’s Guide.”
Despite the lawsuit, Malloy is not backing down.
“A couple of years ago, she made some statements that I then viewed – and continue to view – as anti-Semitic, and I called her out on it,” Malloy said. “She obviously didn’t like it.”
When asked if he would request in court for the suit to be dismissed, Malloy responded, “Somebody will handle it.”
Whitnum, who is representing herself in the pro se case, is also a former candidate for the U.S. Senate. As a candidate in April, she called upon Richard Blumenthal to resign as attorney general because she said he did not do enough to prevent the financial problems at American International Group’s financial products division in Wilton – which suffered huge losses and eventually led to the federal bailout of AIG.
In her race against Himes, Whitnum lost resoundingly – by about 87 percent to 13 percent. After defeating Whitnum, Himes went on to defeat longtime incumbent Christopher Shays, who had held the Congressional seat for 21 years.
Whitnum’s lawsuit in the Malloy case states, “Malloy advised, falsely, verbally at the press conference, and in print that Whitnum had made statements that were ‘anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.’ ”
“Channel 12 televised that Stamford Mayor Malloy called the press conference because of ‘anti-Semitic comments’ Whitnum had made ‘about Jews,’ ” the suit states. “The report was aired three times on Channel 12, with several hundred thousand viewers at each showing.”
“Ms. Whitnum is well read and contends that her words are intended to educate the public and that her only motivation is for the well-being of her country and that Mr. Malloy’s words constitute defamation, slander, libel and libel per se,” the suit states. “Malloy’s words, written and spoken, were false and defamatory, were known to the defendant to be false and defamatory, and were spoken willfully and maliciously with the intent to damage the plaintiff’s good name, reputation, credibility as a candidate and person in the community.”
Whitnum has repeatedly criticized AIPAC, which is a leader in calling for pro-Israel policies in the United States.
“AIPAC had a strong hand in pushing for the Iraq War, and AIPAC has fully infiltrated our election process,” Whitnum said in a statement. “AIPAC has grown to enormous power in the last 20 years. I believe AIPAC is the reason why Senators and members of Congress consistently vote $2 billion a year to Israel – a country that is not impoverished. We need that money here at home for our own crumbling infrastructure.”
She added, “Unlike the other members of Congress, I don’t pledge support to another country to get elected here. And, especially not to Israel in light of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s recent defiance to our president’s request regarding the settlements. I won’t throw my country under the bus for the benefit of my political career.”
Whitnum’s lawsuit says that she has not spoken “disparagingly about any religious group” and “the plaintiff seeks to define what it means to be ‘anti-Semitic’ and to make it defamatory to use the term to stifle much-needed discussion as it related to the well-being of the United States of America.”
In a statement, Whitnum said, “Do we really want a governor who doesn’t know the difference between a lobby group and a religion? If he can’t tell the difference, perhaps he’s not the right choice for governor. … I won’t let a man like Malloy stop me or stifle my speech. I’m going to talk about AIPAC, the neoconservatives’ role in the Iraq War and the settlement all over Connecticut so Malloy better get used to it.”
Malloy is currently battling against Greenwich cable television entrepreneur Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary on August 10. Malloy won the Democratic Party’s convention endorsement in May, but Lamont has been leading the race by 17 percentage points in the past two Quinnipiac University polls. Dating back to last November, Lamont has been ahead of Malloy in the past five polls.
The winner of the Democratic primary will oppose the winner of the GOP race, which is currently a contest between U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley of Greenwich, Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele of North Stamford, or longtime business executive Oz Griebel of Simsbury. Chester First Selectman Thomas E. Marsh, who was previously running as a Republican, is now running for governor under the Independent Party banner