Greek yogurt company Chobani is suing InfoWars founder Alex Jones for pushing conspiracy theories alleging that the company is “importing” migrant rapists to Twin Falls, Idaho.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, seeks at least $10,000 in attorney fees and punitive damages, citing a series of InfoWars articles that promoted false information about the yogurt company.
“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said, as reported by local media.
Chobani was founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent who is a vocal supporter of immigrants and refugees. The company’s Twin Falls factory is the largest yogurt plant in the world. And according to the Idaho Statesman, it’s been a boon to the community: since Chobani built its factory there, the unemployment rate has dropped from 7 to 3 percent. The company also pays higher wages than the area average.
However, in the midst of the contentious election season in which refugee resettlement and immigration policy became lightning-rod issues, Ulukaya and Chobani found themselves in the crosshairs of the conservative media.
In June 2016, three boys sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a Twin Falls apartment complex. The boys were all living in the United States as refugees, two originally from Eritrea and one originally from Iraq.
Right-wing websites like Infowars, Breitbart, and Drudge Report quickly pounced on the news with a series of extrapolations on the event, claiming that the crime was perpetrated by a group of Syrian men, that a rape occurred, and that a knife was involved.
But in reality, police and prosecutors said that there was no rape, no knife, and no grown men. The three boys — all of whom pleaded guilty on felony charges — were aged 14, 10, and seven.
InfoWars, as part of its coverage, published multiple videos of Alex Jones ranting about supposed links between Chobani and the crime, with headlines like “MSM covers for Globalist’s refugee import program after child rape case” and “Idaho yogurt maker caught importing migrant rapists.” Jones also alleged that Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees was responsible for increasing crime rates and tuberculosis cases in the area.
Spurred by the reports, people on social media called for a boycott of Chobani. After outlets published stories alleging that the mayor of Twin Falls, Shawn Barigar, was participating in a “mainstream media coverup” to protect Chobani, he and his wife received death threats.
Now, Chobani is suing for damages stemming from the false coverage. The company also wants InfoWars to acknowledge the false information — and says that Jones and InfoWars have ignored Chobani’s repeated requests to take down the inaccurate coverage.
The yogurt company’s suit adds another layer to Jones’ legal troubles. Jones is also currently embroiled in a child custody battle with his ex-wife in Texas, with some of the evidence coming from his online conspiracy rants. Jones’ lawyer argued that his online persona was performance art — only to have his argument immediately undermined by Jones himself, who insisted that his on-air persona was real.