Twitter Tables Turned: James Woods Sued For Defamation By Twitter User

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Actor James Woods (69) has been sued by Portia Boulger, an Ohio woman, for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. The complaint was filed in The United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio on March 3rd. The petitioner claims three million dollars in damages.

James Woods is an accomplished actor best known for his roles in Casino and White House Down. However, lately, Woods has become just as known for his political leanings, rather than his acting. He has become well known for supporting conservative political views on Twitter. Woods’ tweets have not gone unnoticed by political commentators and internet trolls alike. As reported by GCE, in 2015 Woods filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against an anonymous now-deceased Twitter user for implying he had a cocaine addiction. The anonymous tweet was in response to a political tweet Woods sent out exposing his conservative political ideas.

However, it seems the tables have turned on Woods. Portia Boulger filed a lawsuit against Woods for an alleged Twitter faux-pas. In March of last year, the Chicago Tribune posted a photo of a woman wearing a Trump t-shirt and giving a Heil Hitler salute.

Woods tweeted the photo of a woman wearing a Trump t-shirt and giving a Nazi salute – he claimed she was 64-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter, Portia Boulger, but she was later identified as Trump supporter, Birgitt Peterson, 69, of Yorkville, Illinois Photo credit: E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune

The picture sent Twitter ablaze as many of the users attempted to do their amateur detective work. An anonymous Twitter user tagged Boulger in the picture on Twitter and implied that it was her in the picture. Woods retweeted the photo and wrote the header:

“So Called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?”

The tweet was in reference to the right-wing talking point, that liberals were infiltrating Trump rallies in order to cause chaos, and incite the media to give Trump more bad press.

Because Woods is a well-known actor and a popular right-wing Twitter user, Donald Trump, Jr. (the president’s son) retweeted Woods’ tweet and commented on the authenticity of racist Trump supporters. Another Twitter user pointed out that it was not Boulger in the picture, causing Trump Jr. to delete the tweet, but it was retweeted 5000 times.  Per Courthouse News, according to the complaint filed in court, Woods left the initial tweet on his page. It took 10 days after Boulger’s attorneys contacted Woods until he deleted the tweet.  Instead of the requested retraction, he posted three new tweets as follows:

“I have an opportunity to clarify something I challenged immediately when it hit Twitter. Portia A. Boulger was NOT the ‘Nazi salute lady,” the first reportedly said.

The next tweet allegedly said, “Ms. Boulder [sic] has reached out to me and asked me to use my many followers to stop people from harassing her. I am more than happy to do so.”

According to the complaint filed under case #2:17-cv-00186, the third tweet stated, “Though she supports @BernieSanders, I am happy to defend her from abuse. I only wish his supporters would do the same for other candidates.”

“The second and third of these tweets were false, insulting and demeaning as Ms. Boulger never asked Mr. Woods to ‘reach out to my many followers to stop people from harassing her,’” Boulger’s lawsuit says. “Rather, Ms. Boulger, through counsel, had demanded a retraction and apology.”

As a result of the initial tweet and series of three tweets, Boulger claims that she received hundreds of obscene and threatening messages, including death threats, and is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. In order to bolster her defamation claims Boulger’s attorney wrote the following for the original petition.

“Mr. Woods made this false statement with the knowledge that the statement was false and/or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statement. Mr. Woods maintained the tweet (statement) on his Twitter account for more than ten days after numerous media outlets and Twitter users including the Twitter user from which Mr. Woods originally obtained the photograph of the woman giving the Nazi salute and the separate photograph of Ms. Boulger had reported that the woman giving the Nazi salute was not Ms. Boulger, and after Mr. Woods acknowledged that Portia Boulger may not be the woman giving the Nazi salute”

Boulger’s attorney has traced Woods’ action with Ohio’s revised code 2739.01 Libel and slander which states: “In an action for a libel or slander, it is sufficient to state, generally, that the defamatory matter was published or spoken of the plaintiff. If the allegation is denied, the plaintiff must prove the facts, showing that the defamatory matter was published or spoken of him. In such action, it is not necessary to set out any obscene word, but it is sufficient to state its import.”

On the other hand, Woods’ attorney, Michael E. Weinsten of Lavely & Singer, rebuts with the following statement given to THR: “My client is no doubt surprised by this patently bogus lawsuit. In response to a rumor circulating on the internet about Ms. Boulger’s alleged affiliation with a Trump rally, Mr. Woods tweeted a question seeking clarification. On its face, that is not defamation. In fact, Mr. Woods went out of his way to defend Ms. Boulger against alleged harassment. This case proves the adage ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”

Actually, this might be a case of the old saying, “You reap what you sow.”


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