A writer who was accused of sexual misconduct on a crowdsourced Google spreadsheet of “Shitty Media Men” has sued the creator of the list, along with Jane Doe defendants who contributed to it.
Writer Stephen Elliott of New Orleans filed the suit Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and Jezebel, which posted the lawsuit. The only named defendant is Moira Donegan, who acknowledged in a January article on The Cut that she had created the list in October 2017.
The suit alleges defamation and infliction of emotional distress. Elliott hopes to obtain identifying information about the Jane Doe defendants through discovery and a subpoena to obtain the Google spreadsheet metadata. A Google spokesperson told the Daily Beast that they would not willingly comply, saying, “We will oppose any attempt by Mr Elliot to obtain information about this document from us.”
Links to the list were circulated by email so the women who received it could anonymously add allegations of sexual misconduct by men, according to the suit. “The list contained false information and unsubstantiated allegations, including untrue statements alleging plaintiff engaged in criminal sexual conduct, including rape allegations, sexual harassment, coercion and unsolicited invitations to his apartment,” the suit said.
Elliott’s name was highlighted in red on the list, signifying that he was accused of physical sexual violence by multiple women. According to the suit, the column next to his name read: “Rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment, a dude who snuck into Binders???” The suit says “it is clear he could not physically participate” in the alleged misconduct because of his previously disclosed sexual preferences “as a submissive male in the BDSM context.” He wrote a 2006 book called My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up.
Elliott says the list has harmed sales and promotional opportunities for a 2017 book of his essays, and he has been “effectively blackballed.” He has also suffered emotionally, describing thoughts of suicide in an article for Quillette.
Elliott is represented by Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP in New York. One of his attorneys, Andrew Miltenberg, lists in his law firm bio a focus on campus misconduct due process and Title IX. Miltenberg told the ABA Journal in a 2017 article that he has represented more than 100 students in Title IX cases, and “There needs to be a fuller opportunity for people to defend themselves.”
When news of Elliott’s lawsuit reached Twitter, several people pointed out a 2015 article in TinHouse Magazine that predated the list, which accused Elliott of “overtly misogynistic behavior.” The author of the article, Claire Vaye Watkins, had volunteered to put Elliott up for the night during a writers’ conference when she was a grad student. She turned down his request to sleep with her in her bed. Elliott then wrote about her in his Daily Rumpus newsletter, complaining that nothing would have happened, and it would have been like sleeping with a gay friend. He praised the accomplishments of another writer who picked him up at the airport, but said nothing good about Watkins, who had recently landed a well-known agent.
In the January article, Donegan said she created the list to help protect women in the media industry from sexual harassment and assault. It was intended to help women who aren’t part of informal whisper networks where they can learn of sexual predators.
Donegan said she intended the document to be private, and it was active for only a few hours. But it spread quickly and was posted on Reddit. She says she had a disclaimer on the top of the document that read: “This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt.”
A GoFundMe has been created for Donegan’s legal expenses.
Stephen Elliott’s compl… by on Scribd