Gubernatorial candidate Lee Whitnum, who garnered headlines after police dragged her off a stage during a Democratic candidates’ forum in April, has filed a defamation lawsuit against two reporters for the Stamford Advocate.
Whitnum is representing herself in the complaint, filed June 12 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut Tuesday.
Seeking a jury trial, Whitnum claims there were eight false or inaccurate statements made in a Sept. 11, 2013, Stamford Advocate article, titled “Former Congressional Candidate Charged With Stalking Judge.” The judge of note, Superior Court Judge Jane Emons, presided over Whitnum’s divorce.
The 58-year-old Greenwich resident and current Democratic candidate for governor claims the article was published “with a reckless and/or intentional disregard for the truth” and that it contained “information that was intended to and did portray the plaintiff as mentally unstable and other proven falsehoods.”
In a comment emailed to the Connecticut Law Tribune, Whitnum said she has filed about 10 lawsuits against different parties during the past decade, but she has not been taken seriously by Hearst reporters. “The reporters, at Hearst, have smeared me,” she wrote. “Every case I’ve filed, approximately ten, stands on its own merit but the public never hears about it. Hearst’s reporters dismiss and discredit me as litigious, so that they never have to cover the gravamen.”
Whitnum added that stories have been “twisted” by reporters “to make me look crazy, ridiculous, stupid. I can do no right in their eyes.”
In court documents, Whitnum claims reporters did not speak to her prior to writing ”an article that contained false facts about Whitnum and attributed to Whitnum an imaginary series of events and charges that were incorrect and implied defendants had spoken to Whitnum, but they never did.”
The reporters, Daniel Tepfer and John Nickerson, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The lawsuit also names Hearst President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Swartz as a defendant. Hearst Communications owns the Advocate. The company’s spokeswoman, Sheila O’Shea, did not respond to a request for comment.
Whitnum is asking for the article to be removed from all of Hearst newspaper websites and all of the company’s internet portals. It also seeks financial damages of not less than $1 million “for every year the defendants refused to remove proven falsehoods and/or defamatory or half-truths.”
Whitnum’s suit claims the paper attributed to her several quotes that she says she never uttered. Among these excerpts, the following sentences: “‘I never stalked the judge,’ said Lisa ‘Lee’ Whitnum-Baker as she left the courthouse. ‘I did make a call to the judge’s homes but it was a seven-minute call and that’s not stalking. I know the law.’”
Another disputed sentence, according to the plaintiff, is “Whitnum-Baker appeared in court Tuesday without a lawyer. Later, she loudly yelled ‘You’re fired,’ while on her cellphone to her former lawyer, alarming people in the courthouse lobby.”
Whitnum has had several run-ins with the law in recent years, according to news reports. On her 2018 campaign website, she claims she is running to clean up Connecticut’s judicial system, which she said is “blotted” with bad judges and corrupt state employees.
“Our judges have destroyed the lives of so many of our residents,” the candidate’s home page states. “The corrupt people at the top number 300, but we are 3 million and it is time to take back our State. As one of the 13 original colonies, this State has failed to evolve. I’m here to streamline Connecticut, fire the corrupt and bring us into the 21st Century.”
Whitnum reportedly crashed the Democratic forum in April, and after refusing to leave the stage was dragged off by police and arrested for trespassing and breach of peace. She was found guilty of creating a public disturbance.
Whitnum called U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy a “whore” during a televised debate, and In 2012, before he was governor, Gov. Dannel Malloy sought a protective order against her. Whitnum has also previously sued Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, claiming Merrill ignored her when she asked questions about an election. The Greenwich Time reported Whitnum faced trespassing charges filed by a senior living facility where her ex-husband lived.
Whitnum claims she has suffered “extensive damage, including but not limited to her name, personal and business reputation, good will and economic prospects.”