Alex Berenson, the former New York Times reporter who became “the pandemic’s wrongest man,” suggested on Monday night that he would sue Twitter for banning his account for repeatedly violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy.
And Fox News host Tucker Carlson not only urged the self-professed “COVID contrarian” to “sue the crap” out of the social media site but he also offered to “fund” Berenson’s potential lawsuit.
Over the weekend, Berenson was permanently suspended from Twitter after building up a massive following on the platform by peddling skepticism and misinformation about the virus, mitigation efforts, and the coronavirus vaccines. The ex-reporter turned spy novelist parlayed his COVID-19 trutherism into frequent Fox News appearances, book sales, and a rapidly growing Substack subscriber base.
Following his Twitter ban, which a Twitter spokesperson said was for “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules,” Berenson implied on his Substack page that he was weighing “legal options” against the tech giant. At the same time, he seemed unclear on what grounds he might sue Twitter.
“A potential suit is complex and would cover – at a minimum – First Amendment issues, contract law, and drug/vaccine law,” Berenson wrote, adding: “A lawsuit may be expensive, and I appreciate your offers of donations. Several very wealthy people have offered to help as well, and my strong preference is to rely on them if possible; I don’t think people with mortgages to pay should be subsidizing this fight, unless there is no choice.”
In an entirely predictable series of events, Berenson popped up on Carlson’s primetime show to complain about his Twitter ban, hawk his Substack to Carlson’s viewers, and discuss his potential lawsuit.
While claiming he still didn’t know why he was banned from Twitter, Berenson said he believed it was for a tweet in which he asserted that vaccines don’t stop infections or transmission and are “at best” a “therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile.” (Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.)
“I think every statement I made in the tweet was totally accurate and defensible,” Berenson added. “And I think if it gets to a jury we will find out what a jury has to say about that.”
Berenson, who apparently tried to circumvent his Twitter suspension by using another account before it was banned, grumbled that to be “denied access” to Twitter was “dangerous” because he believes he’s providing a public service.
“I think I have a First Amendment claim in that Twitter is sort of a modern town square,” he said, claiming that an “interesting ruling” by the California Supreme Court revolving around malls and political protests could work to his advantage.
“There is another issue,” Berenson continued. “Twitter has defamed me by saying my information is inaccurate.”
After Berenson argued that Twitter labeling his posts as misinformation had allowed other media outlets to label him as “disgraced,” Carlson—a renowned vaccine skeptic and COVID truther himself—fully endorsed any potential legal action by his frequent guest.
“I hope you sue the crap out of these totalitarians,” Carlson seethed. “I hope you do, and if you do, I hope you come back and tell us how to buy popcorn and watch.”
Berenson, for his part, boasted that many people “want to be a part of this and fund the lawsuit,” prompting the Fox News star to add his name to the list.
“I want to fund it,” Carlson said. “I do. I mean that.”
First Amendment and defamation lawyers have said Berenson has little to no shot in court while suggesting that the threat of a lawsuit is merely a way to squeeze money from his readers and fans.
“What he wants is to crowdfund a lawsuit, that he knows he will lose (he has no case whatsoever) and pocket the leftover money,” experienced defamation lawyer Ari Cohn noted on Twitter. “It is a grift, through and through.”
First Amendment litigator Ken White also didn’t pull punches on Monday night, stating bluntly that Berenson “is full of shit on defamation law.”