Stephen Elliot, a writer and founder of the liberal website The Rumpus, who was named in a Google spreadsheet where women could anonymously accuse male media professionals of sexual misconduct, is now suing the woman who created the so-called “Shitty Men in Media” list.
The suit names Moira Donegan, who went public as the creator of the list in January, and 30 “Jane Does” who contributed to the list, which Donegan described as a private “whisper network that was never meant to be made public,” but whose identities are unknown, Business Insider reports. Elliott hopes to uncover their identities by subpoenaing Google for the spreadsheet metadata. Google has said that it does not plan to hand over any information.
Elliott is seeking $1.5 million in damages for libel and emotional distress.
Allegations against Elliot in the list included “rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment,” according to the complaint, which also dismissed the claims as “wholly unsubstantiated.” Elliott denied the allegations in an essay published last month, and, speaking with New York Times editor Bari Weiss, he insisted he has never raped anyone. “No one is going to come forward and say that I raped them,” Elliott declared. “I don’t believe even my enemies believe I raped somebody.”
As far as the motivation behind he lawsuit, Elliott told Weiss, “An apology would be good. Legal fees would also be good. But maybe seeing it argued out in the court of law will help good people come to their senses and distance themselves from the rotten parts of this movement,” he said referring to the #MeToo movement, which he suggested he has become disillusioned with.
“Multiple people asked me at first if I was OK just taking a bullet for the movement,” Elliott told Weiss. “Because of their politics and, frankly, because of mine. If I was to come out and say, ‘Hey, I was falsely accused of rape,’ it would be like I was attacking this movement which at the time, was a movement that I believed in,” he added.
The same day Elliott published the essay defending himself, though, the reporter Lyz Lenz claimed on Twitter that Elliott had once “hounded” her after she refused to come to his room to watch a movie, and that since his name appeared on the list, she has “gotten so many emails from women talking about the harassment [he] put them through.”
Hi Stephen Elliot, it's me, Lyz. Remember when I was an upaid editor at your magazine and we met at AWP where you invited me up to your room to watch a movie and I declined? But you didn't take no for an answer. You hounded me. I hid under a table. https://t.co/a66u4JmHXW
— lyzzie borden lenz (@lyzl) September 25, 2018
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Donegan with her legal and security fees. To date, it has raised more than $100,000.
Meanwhile, Isaac Fitzgerald, an author and former managing editor of The Rumpus, took to Twitter to denounce Elliott for filing the lawsuit, which was brought the day before the statute of limitations was set to expire. In a lengthy thread, Fitzgerald criticized Elliott’s essay in which he defended himself and said the legal action is “an outrageous act of violence against Moira” that is ultimately “unforgivable. In the full thread, which is lengthy and can be read here, Fitzgerald goes on to provide some context about why this has become such a thorny issue, not the least of which is that The Rumpus was a place that nurtured women writers — something Elliott had a hand in seeing to.
And now there's this lawsuit. Not only is it utter bullshit, it's an outrageous act of violence against Moira first and foremost, as well as everyone who contributed to the list or found any measure of solidarity or hope or comfort or usefulness in it. It's fucking unforgivable.
— Isaac Fitzgerald🤞🏻 (@IsaacFitzgerald) October 12, 2018