Billionaire casino mogul and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson doesn't want people repeating an allegation by one of his former executives, who claimed last month that Adelson personally approved a prostitution scheme at his casinos in the Chinese territory of Macau. So, to keep people from repeating the claim, he's taking the only PR strategy that could possibly make it worse: threatening to sue.
And he's not threatening to sue just anybody -- Adelson is threatening to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
As with so many libel and slander cases, it's all in the context.
To be clear, the DCCC did not make the original allegations, but they did publish them out of context. Steven Jacobs, a former top executive at Adelson's Chinese casino company who was fired in 2010, made the claims in a lawsuit. He alleged that other executives had told him to back off prostitutes in Adelson's casinos because, according to them, he had personally approved their presence. Adelson denies the allegations outright, telling Forbes that his prior employee "would make a good fiction writer."
The DCCC repeated Jacobs' allegations in several campaign communications earlier this month, pinning them on The Associated Press instead of the former executive. Democrats have, in recent weeks, seized upon reports about the lawsuit against Adelson and blasted the allegations at the constituents of politicians who've taken Adelson's money, charging them of being funded in part by Chinese prostitutes.
It's a politically expedient line of attack because it enables Democrats to claim that Republicans are being funded by the shady overseas dealings of the largest American political donor in history, whose allegedly "limitless" money hose is pointed squarely at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
One DCCC release, aimed squarely at Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), asks what the Rep. will do "when his Chinese prostitution money comes from billionaire Sheldon Adelson."
"House Republicans like Congressman Duffy are fighting tirelessly to protect billionaires like Sheldon Adelson who make fortunes overseas and Adelson is now the largest single donor to Congressman Duffy’s Republican Majority," the release claims. "It's past time for Congressman Duffy to reject the support of these groups funded by foreign money from a Chinese prostitution strategy."
Of course, Politifact pointed out that the DCCC published unproven allegations as fact, and in a way that lacks context.
In a letter sent to the DCCC on Tuesday, first published by The Las Vegas Sun (PDF), Adelson's lawyer demands that Democrats "remove the allegations concerning Mr. Adelson from the DCCC website," "agree not to republish in any form your allegations concerning Mr. Adelson" and "release a prominent statement, in a form approved by Mr. Adelson, retracting and apologizing for your false claims."
Unfortunately for Adelson -- whose Macau casinos are currently being investigated by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission -- none of that is likely to happen. Whether he'll pull the trigger on his threatened lawsuit remains to be seen.
Photo: Bectrigger / Wikimedia Commons.