Swalwell to Stark: ‘Apology’ NOT accepted

15th Congressional District candidate Eric Swalwell says he’s moving forward with plans to sue Rep. Pete Stark, who during a candidates’ forum several weeks ago accused Swalwell of having accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.”

Stark, D-Fremont, last week issued a statement saying he “misspoke the other evening when I made allegations against my opponent for taking bribes and for that I apologize.” But Stark in that same statement voiced concerns that Swalwell – a Dublin city councilman, and a Democrat – has voted for projects “by developers who have been raided by the FBI, have plead guilty to destroying natural habitats, and has taken numerous contributions to fund his campaign which he consistently utilizes with negative attacks.”

Eric SwalwellSwalwell today said Stark “did not misspeak – he maliciously lied” not only about bribery but about Swalwell having a spotty voting record.

“Until he retracts those serious allegations, both that I never voted and that I took bribes, we will meet his intentional lies with legal remedies,” Swalwell said. “In the courtroom, a judge will tell the jury that if a witness deliberately lies you should consider not believing anything they say. The voters should treat Pete Stark no differently. They deserve better.”

Swalwell today provided us a copy of the letter that his lawyer – James Wagstaffe, a noted defamation attorney – sent last Thursday (the day after Stark’s semi-apologetic statement) to Stark’s Maryland home and his Washington and Fremont offices.

“The fact that you and our client are public figures in a political campaign does not insulate you from liability for your unlawful comments,” Wagstaffe wrote. “Furthermore, your purported and seemingly insincere apology for these statements, issued today by your campaign, is neither full nor fair. First, it is false and misleading to state that you ‘misspoke’ when you alleged that Councilmember Swalwell was taking bribes, when it is apparent that your statements were deliberate and premeditated. Second, you deliberately juxtaposed your supposed apology with words designed to further defame our client, which also exposes you to liability.”

Wagstaffe demanded “that you, to every extent possible, fully and publicly retract all defamatory statements you have made about Councilmember Swalwell. We also demand that you immediately cease making such false and disparaging statements. While such mitigating conduct is appropriate and necessary, it does not absolve you from the liability that has attached to the statements you have already made.”

I’ll update this item with a response from Alex Tourk, Stark’s campaign strategist, if and when I receive it.

UPDATE @ 4:37 P.M. THURSDAY: This response just in from Alex Tourk…

“As Congressman Stark said last week, he misspoke and apologized. He has committed to staying focused on the issues and that’s what he’s doing. This week he’s co-authored legislation to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling July 1st. On Friday he’ll co-lead a hearing on the Republican plans to convert Medicare to a voucher – where he’ll call them out on their desire to end Medicare as know it. He’s continuing to gather support for his legislation, the WORK Act, which would provide low-income moms with the option to stay home to raise their young children without being forced further into poverty. And today he called on the Administration to conduct a federal investigation of a debt collector that’s going after patients in hospital emergency rooms and at their bedsides. Congressman Stark is busy working on the issues he’s passionate about, and which are important to his constituents.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • This is AWESOME!

    Finally, a politician is being held accountable.


  • JohnW

    Swalwell is obviously milking this as a way to keep the issue alive in order to increase his name recognition and to run up Stark’s negatives. Fair enough. Stark started it. But a real legal case? Not gonna happen. Now that Stark has issued at least a limited retraction and apology, we’re dealing with garden variety mudslinging and innuendo that we unfortunately see in politics all the time. Even if Swalwell could make a legal case and overcome the “public figure” factor, the election would be long over by the time this ever got to court.

  • Truthclubber

    What’s the liddle boy Eric gonna do if he gets elected, and then starts to find other members of Congress bad-mouthing him (like Gingrich calling his fellow GOPer Romney a liar on national television to the likes of Bob Schieffer)? Sue them too?

    We may have an adult (Stark raving Pete) who needs his meds upped, but at least he IS an adult and knows how to play adult-style “inside baseball”…

  • moderate voter

    Garden variety mudslinging? Stark accused Swalwell – a respected veteran Alameda County presecutor – of a felony, the charges were completely unfounded, not a scintilla of truth. Stark just made this charge up out-of-thin-air. He also tried to claim Swalwell hadn’t voted in several elections, another charge that was completely false.
    This ridiculous outburst by Stark – which got him ton’s of bad press by the way – didn’t surprise me. It’s well known in DC Stark is way,way over-the-hill – “out of it” is the word you here a lot.
    Nancy Pelosi, for example, will do almost anything to be avoid being trapped in the same office with Stark. I mean he’s just wacky now and makes no sense. She wanted him to retire, but couldn’t talk him into it, according to what I’ve heard. Stark is a “problem” the leadership couldn’t solve, Stark is way,way over the hill but he just won’t retire. I think voters will retire him this time though, this Swalwell is an excellent candidate for the job.

  • Publius

    Old Dem fighting Young Dem, better than a cat fight!

    Stay tuned in 2014-

    Darling Dem with all the Obamabucks vs, Dem to be named later…………

  • JohnW

    Re #4

    Yes, “garden variety mudslinging.” This isn’t a Dublin city council race. Mixing metaphors, “Welcome to the NFL.” It ain’t right, but it is what it is. Truth is, Swalwell should be thanking Stark, not suing him. The negative publicity about Stark over this matter has given Swalwell a fighting chance he didn’t have before. Stark should be saying, “you’re welcome,” and sending Swalwell a bill for promotional services provided.

    Still voting for Stark to get to Khanna in 2014.

  • Truthclubber

    Can you believe we have to endure this for over six more months (since both of them will survive the primary and go on to the general)? Oh, the humanity…

  • Truthclubber

    It’s beginning to look as if (unless there is a mass exodus by Democratic primary voters to vote for someone other than Swalwell) that Eric will be the winner of the ‘In politics, it’s better to be lucky than good’ prize — because with this latest meltdown, it’s apparent we have another William O. Douglas on our hands — his meds have clearly run out and no one wants to show him the door gracefully.

    Expect to see a massive, and well-paid “write-in Ro (Khanna)” campaign this fall…good luck on THAT!