Last week, Liberty Hangout reported on how Slippery Rock University’s student-run newspaper, The Rocket, libeled Kaitlin Bennett after she visited the campus. SRU’s College Republicans chapter invited Bennett to join a panel to answer questions about the 2nd amendment.
Days after the event, The Rocket put out a hit-piece on Bennett which libeled her as “a white-supremacist sympathizer” that “shouldn’t be welcome anywhere”. The article contained numerous other lies about Bennett and the encounters she had that day, which include that she “went out of her way to belittle and demean members of the audience” and that a staff member was “harassed by Bennett” for taking her photo.
In the following video, Bennett debunks these with footage of that day which proves The Rocket was not telling the truth. Bennett never belittled or demeaned members of the audience, as The Rocket claims, but was heckled and interrupted by members of the audience for her association with InfoWars. Bennett and other members of the panel responded to the woman, letting her know her interruption was rude and uncalled for. Likewise, a member of The Rocket was not harassed by Bennett. Instead, The Rocket‘s photo editor Paris Malone took photos of Bennett at her car from a distance, followed her around closely without introducing himself and stating what he was doing, and continued to follow her closely after he was made aware he made her feel uncomfortable.
The Rocket also labeled Bennett “a conspiracy theorist”, called InfoWars “a media conspiracy organization that is facing multiple defamation lawsuits for reporting blatantly false information about the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting”, and said she has “oppressive rhetoric” and “[seeks] to suppress others through bigotry and hate.” They also called Bennett an enemy of human decency.
After The Rocket‘s editor-in-chief Eric Davies failed to respond to a single one of our four requests for them to retract the article, Bennett hit The Rocket with a cease and desist on April 22nd for their libel against her. Since the article was “produced collaboratively by the entire Rocket Staff”, the cease and desist was sent to the twelve staff members of The Rocket; Eric Davies, Adam Zook, Oscar Matous, Stephen Cukovich, Megan Bush, Heather Donat, Paris Malone, Lauren Ault, Hannah Shumsky, Hope Hoehler, Jack Hopey, and Sarah Allen. Bennett also sent the cease and desist to Slippery Rock University’s president, Dr. William J. Behre, since he spoke negatively about Bennett and said she should not have been invited to speak at SRU, yet neglected to condemn The Rocket‘s defamatory article that put Bennett’s life in danger.
The Rocket has yet to retract any of the above false and misleading statements, but they finally retracted their false accusation that Bennett is “a white-supremacist sympathizer” after receiving Bennett’s cease and desist letter. The sentence, which used to read “However, the ideology of a white-supremacist sympathizer who uses social media to attack the survivors of school shootings shouldn’t be welcome anywhere, not just on a college campus” was changed to “However, the ideology of individuals like Bennett who would use social media to attack a survivor of a school shooting should not be welcome anywhere, especially on a college campus.”
The Rocket updated the article without issuing a public apology for making false statements about Bennett. When Bennett sent the cease and desist to The Rocket, she told Liberty Hangout, “All they need to do is apologize”, and that “They know what they said is a lie, they know that it puts my life in danger, and they don’t seem to care.”
Bennett has yet to get her wish, and now tells Liberty Hangout, “The fact that they changed their article proves they knew it was false, and their unwillingness to apologize tells me it was their intent to spread lies about me and put me in harm’s way.”
She continued, “I just want them to give me clarification that this wasn’t their intention, as we’ve asked so many times, but their unwillingness to simply apologize and say ‘no it wasn’t’ leads me to believe it was.”
As a result of The Rocket’s defamation, at least one individual on Twitter has threatened Bennett and said, “If it puts her in harms way, so be it. She reaps what she sows.” The user continued in a second tweet, “she deserves what she gets and the majority won’t lose a minute of sleep over it.”
When Bennett expressed concerns that The Rocket’s hit-piece could put her life in danger, Jack Hopey, a staff member of The Rocket who helped write the article on Bennett, liked a comment on Facebook that mocked her concerns.
While The Rocket has retracted at least one of their false statements against Bennett, they have yet to publicly apologize for putting out false statements in the first place. They have also yet to deny whether it was their intention to put her life in danger, as their hit-piece has now demonstrably led to Bennett receiving violent threats.