NEWS & ANALYSIS

Dem Congressional Candidate Sued for Campaign Ad Smearing Private Citizen as Insurrectionist


A Democratic congressional candidate is being sued for defamation after her campaign ad suggested that a local business owner was guilty of funding and supporting “insurrection” in relation to January 6, 2021. Her response to the lawsuit reasons that the man was  “close friends” with and a donor to her Republican opponent. 

Philanthropist, businessman, and local gym owner Jim Worthington says that Democratic congressional candidate Ashley Ehasz is attempting to capitalize on a smear campaign originally launched by progressive organization MoveOn.org.

Worthington told Human Events that he is being “unfairly targeted for the same reason tens of thousands of other Americans have been unfairly targeted.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people went to Washington that day to peacefully assemble and hear the President of the United States speak. Left-wing organizations and left-wing activists have attempted to ruin innocent lives, destroy reputable businesses and silence the voices of individuals who have committed no crimes other than to see a different vision for America. I am blessed in life that I have the resources and the ability to fight back,” Worthington said.

Ehasz reasons that her staff was simply relying on “credible mainstream news sources,” to substantiate the allegations that she circulated.

Ehasz is a young democratic hopeful, looking to unseat Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Buck County, Pennsylvania. A campaign ad emphasizes both her past military service and ability to drop f-bombs: “If you had told eight-year-old me, living alone with my struggling mom, bouncing from house to house, with nothing but water to put in my cereal that one day I’d be flying Apaches, I would have told you to f*ck off.”

In her legal response to the allegations of defamation, Ehasz reasoned that Worthington “is well known to the general public as a leading supporter” both of her opponent Fitzpatrick and of President Trump and that he “spent approximately $35,000 to serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.”

Worthington’s legal team suggests that Ehasz strategically co-opted a narrative previously set by MoveOn and one of its members in an attempt to kickstart her campaign during the public comment session of a locally broadcast Township Supervisors meeting about a potential gun show to be held on Worthington’s property.

During the meeting, Ehasz argued against Worthington’s right to host such an event, alleging that he “has shown he is not a responsible or trustworthy host of such a gun show” because he “spent thousands of dollars to bus 200 people to attend the January 6th rally in Washington D.C.,” adding that “the FBI even showed up at his house.”

“His flippant and dangerous support of the lies about the election, lies which endangered law enforcement, show he cannot be trusted to host an event with deadly weapons in our community,” said Ehasz.

Video of these allegedly defamatory remarks was then used to solicit campaign donations for Ehasz via ActBlue. The ad claimed that “Jim ‘Stop the Steal’ Worthington” was “a major funder of buses from Bucks County to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” an assertion that Worthington calls out as “false and defamatory,” noting that it was published alongside an “Ashley Ehasz for Congress” logo and a photo of Ehasz. A later-sent campaign email with similar language included a link to the ActBlue donation page, and went so far as to call Worthington a “supporter of the January 6 insurrection.”

Worthington’s complaint notes that “despite public reports on Worthington’s non-involvement in any criminality or misconduct on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.” and Worthington’s repeated denouncement of the violence that occurred Ehasz “cynically co-opted” several “false and defamatory accusations in undertaking a vicious campaign to maliciously and falsely accuse Worthington of committing federal felonies and crimes of violence.”

“Ehasz’s publication falsely states or implies that Worthington funded busloads of people to travel interstate to participate in criminal acts, including insurrection and rebellion,” the complaint alleges.

“These statements are not only false, they represent a parasitic attempt by a novice politician to bolster her profile and fill her campaign coffers by attacking not her election opponent, but rather by again falsely maligning the good reputation of a private citizen for her own self-interest.”

Ehasz’s legal response noted that “Worthington is a significant supporter and close friend of Ehasz’s opponent, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick” and “has funneled tens of thousands of dollars into Fitzpatrick’s campaigns since 2016,” as well as that Worthington had hosted a successful fundraiser for her opponent and claimed in an interview to have “spoken with former-President Trump on several occasions in support of a Pennsylvania Senate candidate.”

Worthington’s attorney Geoff Johnson told Human Events that the details within Ehasz’s answer “are a further reflection of the warped thinking that led her to make the false accusations in the first place,” adding that Worthington “had never heard of Ehasz until she used him as a foil to promote her campaign by attacking him.”

“Now, after she falsely and publicly smeared him, she can’t seem to accept the fact that she behaved badly and attributes his response in suing her, not to her own misconduct, but to some political motive on Jim’s part,” Johnson said. “It’s a very selfish and myopic worldview.” 

Worthington’s legal team has already filed a motion to strike certain unrelated information from Ehasz’s answer to the lawsuit, including a photograph posted to social media of Worthington and former United States Army General Michael Flynn.

Ehasz’s answer also reasoned that “The trip Worthington sponsored was advertised as march from the National Mall to the Capitol” and “It is public knowledge that the march from the National Mall to the Capitol following the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and ‘Million MAGA March’ preceded a breach of the Capitol Building.”

Worthington does not deny that he was in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Only that he, like thousands of others who were present in the nation’s capital that day did not breach the capitol, intend to breach the capitol, or commit any violence whatsoever. 

Worthington even admits that he helped found a group called People4Trump. That People4Trump organized a bus trip to participate in a rally and to hear then-President Trump speak. That 200 people (“mostly middle-aged housewives,” according to the complaint) took advantage of the bus trip, attended the rally, and were back in Pennsylvania by 9:30 pm. 

Worthington notes that he traveled separately from the People4Trump group. 

After the events of that day unfolded, Worthington called in a Jan 7 Facebook post for “Anyone who breeched the Capitol building or physically confronted Law Enforcement” to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Law no questions asked,” calling the breachers “idiots and criminals.”

On Jan. 9, Worthington noted in another post that “The bus group consisted of nearly 200 individuals,” who were “just plain Americans” hoping to hear “their President speak at the White House one last time” and to show “Congress that they support fair elections.” 

“These folks are not seditionists, nor do they break the law,” Worthington added.

On April 13, a judge overruled preliminary objections to a similar defamation lawsuit, signaling that Worthington has a valid case regarding the original allegations made by Moveon.org and MoveOn member Gregory Bullough.

Representing MoveOn is former Democratic National Committee general counsel Joe Sandler.

Days after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, a petition authored by Bullough was published by Moveon.org, demanding that organizations associated with  Worthington’s gym “end their partnership and association” with the business because “Newtown Athletic Club in Pennsylvania’s owner sponsored and organized three bus-loads of people to participate in what became the January 6th shameful riot and insurgency in Washington DC.”

The petition is still live, and includes a photograph of persons inside the Capitol on January 6.

Worthington argues that this photo furthers the implication that he carted busloads of rioters to D.C. in order to invade the Capitol building.

Moveon.org represents its members as “a force for social justice and political progress” and prides itself on “rapid-response organizing.” Worthington’s suit notes that the organization frames itself as a pillar of the “Resistance Movement” against Trump and the Republican Party.

Worthington’s complaint notes that his gym, Newton Athletic Club (NAC) is “is a globally recognized health club and lifestyle center which has gained widespread renown and praise as a facility consistently in the vanguard of the Health and Sports club industry,” and that the strategic partnerships under attack “have benefited NAC both financially and by further enhancing its reputation.”

As posted, the petition now boasts that, “The entire partners page is gone. There is no reason to continue with the businesses on it. We have won.”

The suit also includes a Facebook post from Bullough, allegedly posted around the same time as the petition, claiming that Worthington “organized three busloads of seditionists to converge on the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th.”

 After Worthington took legal action, Bullough began soliciting donations on Gofundme.com to help him “defray the legal costs to defend against this assault on Democracy.”

 “Following the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol, it came to my attention that a local gym owner who’d hosted two pro-Trump rallies (with Trump as a guest), gotten himself appointed to a Presidential fitness council, run a pro-Trump PAC, and solicited donations to overturn the election, had arranged for three bus-loads of Trump supporters to travel to DC in the middle of a pandemic to attend the ‘stop the steal’ rally that ended with the insurrection on the capitol.”

On the page, Bullough boasted that his petition was signed by 7000 community members “asking community organizations to remove themselves from his ‘Community Partners’ page,” and that “Most did, and the owner was forced to end that program.”

Bullough’s plea for financial assistance called the lawsuit a “bullying tactic.”