BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Greek yogurt giant Chobani filed a lawsuit Monday against right-wing radio host Alex Jones, accusing the conspiracy theorist of publishing false information about the company.
Chobani says that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories earlier this month that linked Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children. The company filed the lawsuit in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where it operates the largest yogurt plant in the world.
“(Jones) is no stranger to spurious statements. He has claimed that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut,” Chobani’s attorneys wrote. “Mr. Jones has now taken aim at Chobani and the Twin Falls community.”
The complaint says InfoWars released a video on April 11 describing Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees and a sexual assault case that did not involve the yogurt company.
During the video, an Info Wars reporter republished statements that claimed the Chobani plant brought crime and tuberculosis since it opened the plant five years ago while also pointing out previous reports of its willingness to hire refugees in Twin Falls.
Twin Falls is one of the two cities in Idaho with a refugee resettlement center.
The video was promoted using the headline “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Important Migrant Rapists,” even though the lawsuit points out that InfoWars didn’t mention or prove that statement in the report. The story was tweeted out by Jones and other outlets.
InfoWars didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report was critical of Ulukaya’s support of hiring refugees while reporters then reacted to a separate issue involving three Twin Falls refugee boys who admitted to charges involved in the assault of a 5-year-old girl at an apartment complex.
In this Monday, April 17, 2017 photo, “Infowars” host Alex Jones, right, arrives at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. (Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
The 2016 assault sparked months of turmoil in Twin Falls after the story about the incident was spun by far-right blogs and anti-immigration groups into accounts that exaggerated and falsified many of the details.
“The defendants defamatory statements were designed to cause — and did in fact cause — customers to call for a boycott of Chobani’s products,” the lawsuit stated.
Chobani’s attorneys say Jones has ignored requests to remove the inaccurate coverage. It’s seeking at least $10,000 in damages.
KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press