The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Libel Lawsuit (Related to Causing-Suicide Allegations) Between Two Trans Political Commentators,

"Defendant White would go on to accuse Ms. Erlick of sexually abusing and—most importantly, including by Defendant White’s own reckoning—causing the death of the person (Danie) who made the accusation."


It's Erlick v. White (@EliErlick v. @BlaireWhite), just filed today in S.D.N.Y.:

3. Defendant Blaire White is a notorious YouTuber that promotes farright conspiracy  theories and has traded on the fact that she is transgender to push hatred against other members of the trans community….

10. Ms. Erlick is a trans woman, activist, and graduate student.

11. Defendant White has a history of attacking other trans individuals, recognized by New York Courts. "[S]ince January 2017, White has intermittently created and uploaded episodes of a video series entitled 'Triggering Tr[*]nnies' which features taunts of people who identify as 'trans.'… In this Court's view, all of these comments may be fairly described as 'queer slurs' because they were clearly intended as insults." Straka v. Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Cmty. Ctr., Inc., 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 32116 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020).

12. In or around August of 2022, Defendant White sent a private, social media message to Ms. Erlick stating her (White's) intention to create one of those a video about Erlick.

13. That message read: "Hey Eli, any statement about the allegations of sexual abuse and/or your admitted plan to illegally give children drugs? I'll be doing a video on this. Thanks!"

14. Ms. Erlick responded in relevant part by providing a link responding, among other things by linking a full response, saying, "I wrote a response years ago before they [e.g. the person who made an accusation of sexual abuse] deleted their accusations."

15. Defendant White and Ms. Erlick exchanged several more messages before the conversation concluded, demonstrating that Defendant White had seen, or had the opportunity to see, the message described above.

16. As detailed below, Defendant White would go on to accuse Ms. Erlick of sexually abusing and—most importantly, including by Defendant White's own reckoning—causing the death of the person (Danie) who made the accusation.

17. The link that Ms. Erlick provided to Defendant White takes the viewer to a Tumblr post authored and published by Ms. Erlick on August 5th, 2016, and edited by Ms. Erlick in December, 2018.

18. The top of the post, and immediately viewable upon clicking the link, indicates that Danie was alive.

19. Upon information and belief, Defendant White read and understood that Danie was alive.

20. Danie is alive.

21. Had Defendant White undertaken even the most cursory diligence—let alone industry standard diligence—she would have also been able to discover on her own that Danie was alive….

There's more here. As I read the complaint, the specific statement that Erlick is alleging were libelous were that:

Defendant White's statements were untrue and defamatory in that they falsely reported that Danie is deceased, and in that a reasonable person would infer Defendant White's statements to mean that Ms. Erlick had caused that death.

That part of the Complaint doesn't list the allegations of sexual abuse or of "having a legal drug trafficking scheme aimed at minors" as being libelous, though from the tenor of the rest of the Complaint it appears that Erlick is denying those allegations as well.