Indianapolis radio host sues Evansville mayoral candidate, claims defamation

EVANSVILLE – Gabriel Whitley, a conservative political activist and declared Evansville mayoral candidate, is being sued for defamation after he allegedly called a radio talk show host a pedophile.

A lawsuit was filed in Vanderburgh Superior Court on behalf of Robert Kendall, a political commentator at WIBC-FM in Indianapolis. The lawsuit names Whitley as the operator of a Facebook group called Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana.

The lawsuit also names Spencer McDaniel and the Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana.

The lawsuit alleges that the Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana Facebook page posted statements that suggested Kendall was a pedophile.

“And Rob Kendall hates the police too. Pedo Joe and Pedo Rob think alike,” read the comments on a Facebook post titled “Biden Downplays Hypocrisy Over Police Funding.”

Kendall’s lawyer sent a message to the New Conservative page, which reportedly received the response, “We’re a satire page. Bring it to the b****.”

The Facebook page type is listed as satire/parody. Its description reads: “We’re a Conservative page to keep Hoosiers informed about what’s happening in Indiana politics.”

Whitley, 25, said this summer he would run in the Republican primary for mayor of Evansville. However, the filing window for this election doesn’t open until January. He has unsuccessfully sought a number of public offices in the Evansville area.

The Young Conservatives of Indiana have posted memes critical of Vanderburgh County Republican Party Chairman and Evansville Vanderburgh School Board candidate Mike Duckworth, US Senate candidate Tom McDermott and EVSC school board member Amy Word.

The lawsuit states that parody and satire involve exaggeration or distortion and are the means by which the writer clearly states that it is not a statement of fact, but a criticism or opinion.

“The satirical effect occurs only when the reader infers by the sheer egregiousness of the words that the whole thing is an outfit,” the lawsuit states.

Kendall’s attorney, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, argues that the context of the post would not allow a reasonable reader to believe the defendant’s words were a “dress.”

The New Conservative page posted a statement on Facebook last week considering the possibility of a lawsuit.

“Rob Kendall threatened legal action against us over a joke. Dude talks in crazy characters about everyone on his podcast. We’re a satire, conservative page and we bash everyone,” they wrote. “We won’t apologize for making fun of him. His lawyer who sent us a third class letter can kick rocks. 1st amendment protests our jokes.”

Kendall’s attorney argued that the First Amendment does not cover their comment. First Amendment rights are not “absolute” when they must be weighed against aspects such as one’s reputation.

“Defendants’ statements were defamatory per se because they alleged criminal conduct and misconduct on the part of Plaintiff,” the suit states.

In the lawsuit, Kendall’s attorney states, “Plaintiff is not a pedophile, nor has he ever been accused, arrested, charged, or convicted of crimes against children.”

They are seeking $50,000 in damages. punitive damages as the court deems appropriate; attorney’s fees and costs; and such other relief as the court deems appropriate.

This article originally appeared in the Evansville Courier & Press: Rob Kendall sues Evansville mayoral candidate Gabe Whitley for defamation

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