Two election workers viciously harassed after they were baselessly accused of inflating the number of votes Joe Biden received in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election have filed a lawsuit against Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that frequently dabbles in conspiracy theories and misinformation.

In the months following Donald Trump’s loss, Gateway Pundit published dozens of articles about Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, calling them “crooked Democrats” who “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.”

An official investigation quickly cleared the mother-daughter duo, but Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer, amplified the accusations and compared Freeman and Moss to drug dealers. He asked Georgia legislators to search their homes.

Trump also pushed the debunked conspiracy theory on an infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that January 2nd conversation, Trump called Freeman “a professional vote scammer” and “hustler.”

The Washington Post reports:

According to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in circuit court in St. Louis, the falsehoods about Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, “have not only devastated their personal and professional reputations but instigated a deluge of intimidation, harassment, and threats that has forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts, and fear for their physical safety.”

The harassment got so bad that at one point, Freeman had to leave her home for two months upon the advice of the FBI, the lawsuit states.

Freeman and Moss are both Black. Much of the harassment they received was explicitly racist. “Trump supporters threatened Moss’s teenage son by phone in tirades laced with racial slurs, said her supervisor, Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron,” reports Reuters.

The outlet adds:

Freeman made a series of 911 emergency calls in the days after she was publicly identified in early December by the president’s camp. In a Dec. 4 call, she told the dispatcher she’d gotten a flood of “threats and phone calls and racial slurs,” adding: “It’s scary because they’re saying stuff like, ‘We’re coming to get you. We are coming to get you.’”

Two days later, a panicked Freeman called 911 again, after hearing loud banging on her door just before 10 p.m. Strangers had come the night before, too. She begged the dispatcher for assistance. “Lord Jesus, where’s the police?” she asked, according to the recording, obtained by Reuters in a records request. “I don’t know who keeps coming to my door.”

“Please help me.”

“I want the defendants to know that my daughter and I are real people who deserve justice, and I never want them to do this to anyone else,” Freeman said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.

The Post provides background:

Gateway Pundit was founded by James Hoft in 2004. Hoft’s twin brother, Joseph, regularly contributes to the site. Both men are named as defendants in the lawsuit. James Hoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

In their lawsuit, Freeman and Moss do not name former president Donald Trump or his campaign as defendants. But they state that the Hofts and Gateway Pundit “apparently drew their inspiration” from a misleading video presented by volunteer Trump campaign attorney Jacki L. Pick at a Dec. 3, 2020 hearing in Georgia.

During the hearing, Pick contended that the video showed several poll workers actively stuffing ballots from “suitcases” hidden under a table covered by a black cloth. Pick did not name the workers, although she said “one of them had the name Ruby across her shirt somewhere.”

Reuters describes Gateway Pundits’s ensuing coverage:

“What’s Up, Ruby? Crooked Operative Filmed Pulling Out Suitcases of Ballots in Georgia IS IDENTIFIED,” read a Gateway Pundit headline. It posted six photos of her, including one captioned, “CROOK GETS CAUGHT.” The story, shared by 38,000 people on Facebook, also identified Freeman’s business, LaRuby’s Unique Treasures. A follow-up Pundit story identified the woman in the blonde braids as Shaye Moss.

Gabriel Sterling, a top Republican election official in Georgia, gave a detailed presentation debunking false claims about the video, but Gateway Pundit continued to spread the misinformation. They published an article as recently as August falsely asserting, “These two election workers took ballots out from under a table on Election night and jammed thousands of ballots into the tabulators numerous times.”

In their lawsuit, Freeman and Moss do not ask for a specific amount of money from the far-right website. On Thursday, the site acknowledged the suit and asked readers to contribute funds toward their defense.