Giuliani defamation trial told repairing reputations would cost tens of millions
"Former Trump lawyer returns to court after testimony from poll worker Shaye Moss about how his lies upended her life
It would cost tens of millions of dollars for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss to repair their reputations after Ruby Giuliani spread lies about them, an expert witness retained on their behalf testified on Wednesday.
A reputational repair campaign would cost anywhere between $17.8m and $47.4m, Ashlee Humphreys, a marketing professor at Northwestern testified Wednesday morning. Given the entrenched beliefs of those who believed Giuliani’s lies, she said an appropriate estimate for a campaign would be $28.4m to $47.4m.
Her testimony began the third day of a federal trial against Giuliani for defamation against the two Georgia election workers, after a day of harrowing testimony from Moss, whose life was upended after Giuliani spread election lies about her.
The testimony is an attempt to quantify the harm Freeman and Moss suffered as a result of defamatory statements Giuliani made after the 2020 election. They are seeking $15.5m to $43m in compensatory and punitive damages, a sum that Giuliani’s lawyer said would be like a “death penalty” for his client.
Humphreys spent much of the morning walking the jury through an analysis of receptive impressions – essentially views by people likely to believe them – the false statements generated on social media, television, podcasts and other media. Defamatory statements between 3 December 2020 and January 2022 had between 35,570,438 and 56,717,742 receptive impressions, she said. Another set of statements made solely in December had between 111.4m and 249.4m impressions.
“The defamatory claims had a significant, negative and long-lasting impact on the reputations of Ms Freeman and Ms Moss,” she said.
Humphreys walked through how search traffic for “Ruby Freeman” went from nonexistent to becoming a figure in rightwing media, including Trump campaign materials and podcasts.
Humphreys said that her analysis of the infamous call between Donald Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump accused Freeman of being a “professional vote scammer”, showed that there were 33m total impressions and 11.7m receptive impressions.
A reputational repair campaign would essentially have to counter every false and negative impression about the two women, she said. And because beliefs had become so entrenched, any positive mention would probably require three to five repetitions to have a positive effect.
Moss and Ruby Freeman are suing Giuliani for his claims, from which the former New York City mayor and Trump ally has not backed down this week. After the first day of trial, Giuliani doubled down on his claims, saying they were true, leading the judge to question Giuliani’s mental fitness.
Giuliani was again called out by Judge Beryl Howell for comments made after court, this time about the plaintiffs’ lawyer. Giuliani said he thought he could comment on the lawyer, but Howell said it violated a court stipulation.
“There’s a lot of accidents going on here, Mr Giuliani,” Howell said.
Just as they have been all week, Moss, Freeman and Giuliani are in the courtroom. Moss and Freeman are sitting next to each other at a table with their lawyers. Freeman’s back is to Giuliani, who is sitting at a table parallel to them with his lawyer.
Freeman is expected to testify later today.
The case is seen as a test for one avenue pro-democracy groups are using to try to hold election deniers accountable for the consequences of spreading conspiracy theories."