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.”
Swalwell 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.”