Rudy Giuliani caused $47.5 million in reputational damage to 2 election workers he defamed, expert testifies at trial

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  • A reputation expert testified about what it would cost to repair reputational damage to two election workers.

  • Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed they manipulated election results and called them criminals.

  • The expert testified the falsehoods may have reached up to 250 million, and it would cost nearly $50 million to run a "corrective" campaign.

Rudy Giuliani wrought devastating reputational harm on two Georgia election workers he falsely accused of rigging the 2020 vote, an expert testified in his defamation trial Wednesday.

To repair the reputations of Weandrea "Shaye" Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, it would cost up to about $47.5 million, Ashlee Humphries said in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C.

After Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, his presidential campaign came up with a strategy that involved peddling falsehoods to cast doubt on the results and pressuring lawmakers to reject now-President Joe Biden's victory.

Giuliani, one of Trump's personal lawyers, was designated as a key figure to push claims of voter fraud and election interference, which were false, according to a document from Trump's allies made public in the defamation lawsuit.

In media interviews and his own social media accounts, Giuliani falsely claimed that Moss and Freeman, who both had jobs counting ballots in Fulton County, had pulled "suitcases" filled with "illegal" ballots from under a table and included them in the election count. He also claimed Moss and Freeman, who are Black, passed USB drives "like they were vials of heroin or cocaine" that had some role in manipulating vote tallies, and said they should be in prison.

Georgia officials confirmed Biden's victory with a statewide ballot audit and cleared Moss and Freeman of wrongdoing. US District Judge Beryl Howell ruled earlier this year that Giuliani was liable for defamation in the case and that the trial would only cover damages.

Lawyers for Freeman and Moss hired Humphries, a professor of consumer sentiment at Northwestern University, to put a dollar amount on the damages. Humphries has also testified in a defamation trial E. Jean Carroll brought against Trump, where a jury awarded Carroll $5 million, and consulted in a defamation case against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Humphries testified in Giuliani's trial Wednesday that she arrived at her calculations by studying the reach of 16 different statements at issue in the trial and looking at digital metrics to see how many people they likely reached. To reach a monetary figure, Humphries looked at how much it would cost for a sustained advertising and social media campaign to correct the record about Giuliani's falsehoods.

Each of Giuliani's podcast episodes — crossposted to YouTube, Spotify, Apple, and other podcasting platforms — traveled far and wide. They were amplified more by media coverage and Giuliani's interviews with far-right media organizations including One America News, which was originally a defendant in the case but settled last year. Each incident reached hundreds of thousands of people, Humphries estimated, drawing on available analytical data for each platform.

Giuliani's falsehoods had enormous ripple effects. Trump referenced them in his infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where he asked him to "find 11,780 votes" that would close the gap between him and Biden in the election. The call, and its media coverage, went even more viral.

"False statements travel faster than truth," Humphries said in court.

The false statements online about Moss and Freeman, Humphries said, were ongoing. Between November of 2021 and May 2023, there were more than 710,000 online mentions of the two. Between May and August 2023, there were more than 317,000 mentions.

"I would consider that a lot," Humphries deadpanned.

The ongoing mentions — spurred in part by Giuliani's continued criticism of Moss and Freeman on social media and his podcast — make it harder to repair the damage, Humphries told jurors.

"Any statements made in the public sphere, it raises these associations again in social media," she said.

In an interview with Business Insider earlier Wednesday, Giuliani said he was "innocent" of Freeman's and Moss's defamation allegations, even though the judge already said he was liable. He also told a group of journalists Monday evening, after the first trial day, that his claims about them "changing votes" were "true." He said people should "stay tuned" for evidence for his claims, which are now already three years old.

In her own testimony Tuesday, Moss discussed how Giuliani's falsehoods had changed her life. She has received a barrage of racist and sexist death threats, she said. Trump supporters have tried to enter her family's home, and she is concerned about keeping her son safe.

"People are messaging me," Moss testified. "Calling, texting, online, saying that I need to die, they're gonna kill me, they want to kill my mom, they know where we are, they know where we sleep and we should die."

Giuliani doesn't have his own damages expert

Humphries said it was challenging to get a completely accurate count of impressions for each of Giuliani's statements, partially because she didn't get data from Spotify and Apple about his podcast audience, among other factors.

On the low end, his statements at issue reached 11 million people, she said, and 250 million at the high end.

A "corrective campaign" to address those statements would cost between $28,489,415 and $47,482,358, she testified. Given Giuliani's large social media following, Humphries said a "high-end" estimate would likely be more accurate.

Giuliani's attorney Joseph D. Sibley told jurors in his opening statement that the figures were far too high, and that the blame for any falsehoods should be dispersed among other people and media companies.

Humphries testified Wednesday that the model she employed is based on what it would take to repair the reputational damage from the statements at issue in Giuliani's case, not other statements.

"My model is tied directly to the impressions and damages for statements in this case," she said.

rudy giuliani defamation trial
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani talks to reporters as he leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, DC.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

While questioning Humphries in cross-examination Wednesday, Sibley mused on the nature of truth, claiming "today's misinformation is tomorrow's truth."

"For example, the laptop. The Hunter Biden laptop. We were told it was misinformation, and you're aware of Mr. Giuliani and he was actually banned from social media channels," Sibley said. "And it was all true, right?"

Sibley also said "we're banned" from discussing the unproven theory that the coronavirus originally leaked from a lab in China.

"I'm going to sustain the objection because I don't know where you're going with that," Howell said, stopping him.

Sibley also asked whether Humphries accounted for any pointlessness in a reputation repair campaign, since some people will always believe in falsehoods.

"There's some people out there who still believe there's a flat Earth," Sibley asked. "Did you hear of that?"

"It's unfortunate, isn't it?" Sibley asked.

"Yes," Humphries said.

Sibley asked whether it would be "a waste of time" to try to "convert" the beliefs of election deniers in the same way it would be a waste of time to try to change the minds of flat Earth conspiracy theorists.

"I don't offer an opinion on convincing flat earth people," Humphries said.

Giuliani and Sibley haven't offered their own expert witness to make a different calculation on reputational damage or offer an alternative method of evaluating the damages.

In a court filing ahead of the trial, Sibley reserved the right only to cross-examine Moss, Freeman, and Humphries, along with Regina Scott, a researcher who calculated the reach of Giuliani's statements. Giuliani himself may also testify in the case.

Humphries said she has studied the practice of reputation repair and that many of her students have gone on to practice it in their careers.

"In my field, reputational repair is largely effective," she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider