The wife of Fox News President Roger Ailes is threatening to sue a local politician for libel because she refuses to remove a post that she shared on her Facebook page, according to Phillipstown.info.
Lawyers for Elizabeth Ailes and the paper she publishes, the Putnam County News and Recorder, have sent a series of letters to Cold Spring Village Trustee Stephanie Hawkins demanding that she remove the post which was written by then-Trustee Matt Francisco, who accused someone of “following” him during a recent campaign.
In the first letter sent to Hawkins, an attorney for the Aileses stated the statements and inferences contained in the shared article: “ …. constitute tortious interference in the business and contractual relations of our clients. As such they are actionable and expose you to the imposition of compensatory as well as punitive damages.”
In the offending post, Francisco wrote: “The Ailes newspaper and their candidates have gone too far. It is clear I’m being followed; my movements are being tracked and reported in their newspaper.”
The New York City law firm representing the Aileses and the newspaper also sent cease-and-desist letters to Francisco, demanding he remove the original post, and to Cold Spring residents Dar Williams and Michael Robinson, who had sent out a letter to friends who have weekend homes in Cold Spring, asking them to vote absentee for Francisco and his running mate, Donald MacDonald, citing what they feel is the detrimental influence the PCNR and Elizabeth Ailes, along with her husband, Roger, have on their community.
The Facebook posting by Francisco was in response to a PCNR article on March 12 by reporter Tim Greco in which he reported on the email written by Williams and Robinson, which the newspaper characterized as a “smear campaign” against their opponents,Cathryn Fadde and Michael Bowman.
Francisco and MacDonald said they had no knowledge of the email, which allegedly disparaged the Aileses.
Greco wrote: “Despite the denial, the Francisco and MacDonald team is clearly in touch with Robinson and Williams. Francisco was outside their home Monday morning. And the PCNR has confirmed that MacDonald has attended meetings with Stephanie Hawkins, a current trustee, at Williams’ and Robinson’s home.”
In Dec 18, Greco wrote: “Francisco was recently seen in a restaurant on Main Street having a lengthy conversation with James Geppner.” Geppner is a known critic of a local development project.
Greco will not say how he or the newspaper obtained the information.
In response Francisco complained on Facebook that his movements were “being tracked and reported” in the PCNR, without specifying who might be doing the tracking.
Hawkins, a supporter of Francisco and MacDonald, then “liked” and consequently shared Francisco’s post, which then led to a threat letter.
Attorneys for Ailes and her newspaper maintain in their letter to Hawkins that the newspaper has no obligation to reveal its sources. The letter demands a retraction from her for the “malicious, false and libelous statements” along with “an apology for the outrageous and patently false statements made against our clients.”
In response Hawkins attorney, Steven J. Hyman, said that the PCNR’s allegations of libel is “baseless as a matter of fact and law,” stating that Hawkins “has every right to comment on matters of public interest and concern,” and to “voice her opinion with regard to individuals and entities that are subjects of or otherwise part of the public debate.”
Hawkins maintains that she doesn’t think the Aileses will actually sue her.
“They are seeking my censure. They will try to work people up through proxies on social media,” she said.
In a recent statement before the Village Board, PCNR editor Doug Cunningham, said of the Facebook post they wish removed, that the publication was “appalled by these outrageous allegations … I believe these attacks are an effort to chill, regulate and tamp down our reporting. For the record, we will not be dissuaded. A free press is vital to democracy.”
Since purchasing the paper (circulation 3,000), the Ailses have been involved in a series of run-ins with the locals.