Drag queen awarded $1.1 million in damages after being defamed by right-wing blogger

A conservative blogger has been ordered to pay more than $1.1 million (around £900,000) in damages after defaming a drag queen online.

Eric Posey, who performs as Mona Liza Million, won his claim against blogger Summer Bushnell after she posted a doctored video which showed the drag artist at an event in Coeur d’Alene, in Idaho.

The edited video, which was shared across social media, showed Posey dancing during a performance in June 2022 but was doctored to blur out his pelvic area to make it seem as if he had exposed himself.

Bushnell posted the video on her Facebook page in late 2022, accusing Posey of indecent exposure.

“Why did no one arrest the man in a dress who flashed his genitalia to minors and people in the crowd?” Bushnell wrote. “No one said anything about it and there’s video. I’m going to put up a blurred video to prove it.”

A Kootenai county district court jury unanimously found Bushnell had defamed Posey and was liable for damages.

Posey said he had received death threats and harassment as a result of the post.

Bushnell’s lawyer, Colton Boyles, told jurors his client’s allegations were “close to the line” but not defamatory. However, on the stand, the blogger admitted that she never saw Posey expose himself, The Guardian reported.

On Friday (24 May), Bushnell was ordered to pay $926,000 (£725,000) in compensatory damages and a further $250,000 (£195,750) in punitive damages after lawyers proved Bushnell was aware her statements were false. The jury asked for the posts to be taken down, but first district judge Ross Pittman said it was not possible.

“I am so grateful that the jury was attentive and rejected the lies that put me in a dark place for nearly two years,” Posey said. He also thanked the LGBTQ+ community in Idaho for their support, saying he was fortunate to have them by his side.

“Imagine being in a dark hole where you have nobody and you felt the whole world turn their back on you,” he said in court on Thursday (23 May). “But somehow, you were surrounded by warriors, true people of Idaho, not transplants, true people of this soil. I am fortunate to say I have people like that around me, people [who] lifted me up.”

Local media quoted his lawyer, Wendy Olson, as saying: “The jury’s verdict demonstrates a clear message to this community that you have to be truthful.”

The North Idaho Pride Alliance, which hosted the event where the video was shot, praised the decision and said: “We will persist in our efforts to provide resources, education and advocacy, fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding.”

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