A Popular Conspiracy Theory Website Just Declared Bankruptcy

The founder of the conspiracy theory website Gateway Pundit said Wednesday that the company was declaring bankruptcy while it fights ongoing defamation lawsuits.

Jim Hoft, the site’s founder, said in a post that Gateway Pundit’s parent company, TGP Communications, had decided to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in the Southern District of Florida “as a result of the progressive liberal lawfare attacks against our media outlet.” Hoft stressed the move was “not an admission of fault or culpability” and said the site would continue publishing.

Gateway Pundit did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

For two decades, the site has published falsehoods and conspiracy theories on everything from vaccines to election fraud. Donald Trump frequentlyshares its material.

The most notable lawsuit against the website is from Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. In 2021, they sued the Gateway Pundit, Hoft and his twin brother, and website contributor Joe Hoft in St. Louis Circuit Court for defamation and emotional distress. The website had falsely alleged that the mother-daughter pair had purposefully manipulated the vote count in Joe Biden’s favor.

“What’s Up, Ruby,” the Gateway Pundit headline naming Freeman read. “BREAKING: Crooked Operative Filmed Pulling Out Suitcases of Ballots in Georgia IS IDENTIFIED.” Trump himself later brought up the pair, including Freeman by name, in a call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, using them as justification in part for his request that Raffensperger “find” Trump the votes needed to win the state.

Among other things, the website’s coverage claimed that Freeman and Moss “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.” (The “suitcases” were actually just standard ballot containers.)

A wave of threats and harassment, including at the election workers’ homes, followed. “It’s turned my life upside down,” Moss testified to the House Jan. 6 committee.

The Hofts, for their part, have claimed they genuinely believed the election was stolen and did not knowingly defame Freeman and Moss, and that their coverage of the pair consisted of “either statements of opinion based on disclosed facts or statements of rhetorical hyperbole that no reasonable reader is likely to interpret as a literal statement of fact.” The site and the twins behind it later filed a counterclaim that was dismissed; Freeman and Moss’s suit is currently awaiting trial.

The Trump campaign was instrumental in perpetuating misinformation about Freeman and Moss, and the pair sued Rudy Giuliani as well, for his role in spreading lies about their work. The former Trump attorney attempted to shift blame to Gateway Pundit, but a jury ultimately awarded Freeman and Moss $148 million in damages in that defamation suit last year. A U.S. district judge recently ruled against Giuliani’s appeal of the verdict. Giuliani, too, filed for bankruptcy.

“I miss my name,” Freeman told reporters after the case against Giuliani wrapped up, lamenting the negative attention he had caused.

Gateway Pundit is also named in a defamation suit that a former employee of Dominion, the voting machine company vilified by Trump and his allies, brought against the former president and key supporters of his 2020 campaign. Conservative media, including Gateway Pundit, depicted Eric Coomer, the former employee, as an election-stealing mastermind after the Colorado-based conspiracy theorist Joe Oltmann claimed that Coomer had bragged during a so-called “Antifa conference call” about ensuring an election victory for Biden.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on a Colorado appeals court ruled that Coomer’s case could proceed.

Gateway Pundit, despite its often-untethered coverage, has played an outsize role in the conservative mediasphere ― though its traffic peaked in 2020. Multiple Republican-led states pulled out of a popular anti-voter-fraud organization after the site falsely reported that it was “founded” by George Soros and was a “essentially a left wing voter registration drive disguised as voter roll clean up.”