A staffer for former state Sen. Marty Golden launched a $5.5 million defamation suit against state Sen. Andrew Gounardes for claiming he was a member of the alt-right “Proud Boys” group last year.
While campaigning for Golden’s southern Brooklyn senate seat last year, Gounardes slammed staffer Ian-Walsh Reilly for inviting Proud Boys and Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnis to an event at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan, which resulted in a brawl as members of the far-right group clashed with anti-facist activists.
“I am horrified by the revelation that my opponent has a member of the white nationalist group Proud Boys on his payroll,” Gounardes said last year following the fracas. “New York cannot afford to have anyone in office that associates himself with hate.”
But Reilly’s decision to host a Proud Boys event does not make him a member, according to Reilly’s attorney, who said Gounardes intentionally confused his client’s willingness to exchange ideas with the Proud Boys as an endorsement of their controversial agenda.
“Just because he invited the founder of the Proud Boys to speak at the Metropolitan Republican Club does not mean that he is a member, or that he, or the Metropolitan Republican Club endorses their views,” said Dennis Houdek. “Instead, it is a classic free speech issue.”
News of the lawsuit has done little to cow the southern Brooklyn Democrat, who doubled down on his year-old statement, contending that Reilly’s defamation claim will not distract from “the fact” that he gave alleged white supremacy outfit an opportunity to spread hate.
“At a time when the rising tide of hate threatens our country and our communities,” he said. “I won’t back down from calling out prejudice and hate whenever and wherever it arises.”