The campaign of CD3 GOP hopeful Tom MacArthur isn’t mincing words one day after the Daily Mail ran a story concerning law suits filed against his former company, York Risk Services Group.
Moreover, they say the attacks of primary opponent Steve Lonegan‘s campaign have been nothing less than “dishonest and defamatory,” Save Jerseyans.
The background: according to MacArthur’s campaign, the paper’s piece was extremely sloppy in terms of missing or distorting key details. For starters, they point out how York is not an insurance company but a service company. The difference? MacArthur wasn’t anywhere near a “cheating firefighters” RICO claim cited by the Daily Mail; his former firm, they point out, had purchased the company involved in the claim after MacArthur left the firm in 2010.
MacArthur’s comms team also went through the trouble of providing a rebuttal for each suit cited by the Daily Mail:
On Lexington Insurance/Port of Galveston, TX:
This case wasn’t filed until after Tom MacArthur had left York and has since been settled out of court and dismissed with no finding of wrongdoing.
On Sylmar/CA wildfires:
York and the insurance company they worked with denied any wrongdoing, and the settlement of this matter occurred in 2012, well after Tom was no longer active in York.
On Houston Baptist:
The case was settled out of court with neither side admitting any wrongdoing. An order accepting a negotiated Stipulation of Dismissal was signed on March 10, 2011 after MacArthur had left York. Moreover, Houston Baptist was denied reimbursement for their attorney’s fees, as well as “trebled damages” and “pre-and post-judgment interest.”
Given the state of the facts as recounted by MacArthur, his campaign asserts that their opposition’s characterization of the story as one in which he was personally “accused of insurance fraud,” the phraseology of a Wednesday release’s headline from the Lonegan campaign, is libelous in nature and factually inaccurate.
“Let’s make one thing very clear: Insurance fraud is a crime and Tom MacArthur was never accused of insurance fraud,” said Chris Russell, general consultant and spokesman for MacArthur’s campaign. “Lonegan’s statement to that effect is a lie and is defamatory.”
There’s no word whether the campaign is moving forward with legal action despite having consulted with counsel. Defamation isn’t easy to prove in the public arena; public figures typically need to show that statements were made with “actual malice,” though accusations concerning crimes including insurance fraud are considered defamation per se, meaning that the complainant is relieved of the burden of showing demonstrating how the statement itself is defamatory in nature.
The campaign took aim at the Daily Mail author himself, too, referencing David Martosko‘s close professional relationship with Charles C. Johnson, the Lonegan campaign’s paid researcher, an angle first reported by Save Jersey, and citing an earlier-in-time tweet from Martosko which the MacArthur people say suggests that the Daily Mail could have walked back the original story’s more hard-hitting headline after evaluating the facts:
The final headline stating only that MacArthur “ran insurance company accused of cheating hurricane and wildfire victims” [emphasis added] appears much more cautious though, again, the MacArthur folks are quick to point out that York isn’t an actual insurance company.
Save Jersey reached out to Chris Russell after yesterday’s story broke. He said Martosko reached out to him via email on Sunday evening with not so much as a request for comment but a proverbial “gun to the head” ultimatum, relaying to Russell how a “story is running tomorrow [Monday], no later than noon” about the insurance story, and warning that “any statement would be preferable to radio silence.”
The story ultimately ran on Wednesday the 30th, not Monday the 28th, another fact which Russell says buoys his theory that the original theme was walked back by the paper.
“That his team of dirt diggers would go to such extreme and underhanded lengths to plant a hatchet job story, and then fail to get their facts straight is emblematic of the entire Lonegan campaign and, in fact, his entire political career – it’s desperate, disorganized and weak,” added Russell in the campaign’s official release. “The Daily Mail piece is a poor excuse for journalism and the facts show its author is little more than an extension of the Lonegan campaign. It’s unquestionably a new low.”