Actor Alec Baldwin on Monday asked a federal judge in Wyoming to dismiss a $25 million defamation lawsuit against him by the family of a U.S. Marine who was killed in Afghanistan.
Attorneys for Baldwin, in a memorandum supporting his request for dismissal filed Monday, said the family of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum had failed to state a case against Baldwin.
“This is a political dispute masquerading as a lawsuit, motivated further by money. The public square—not this Court—is the proper place to debate Alec Baldwin’s opinion,” the memorandum said.
The sisters and widow of McCollum filed the lawsuit against Baldwin in January, claiming earlier this year, claiming a post he made on Instagram and shared with his followers about one of the sisters, Roice McCollum, amounted to defamation.
The post was made after Baldwin donated $5,000 to the family last year after Rylee’s death to support his wife and child.
According to the McCollums’ lawsuit, after donating money to the family, Baldwin reached out to Roice McCollum after seeing a post from her on Instagram that showed protestors outside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Roice had attended a demonstration in support of former President Donald Trump, but did not take part in the attack on the Capitol that occurred that day.
The lawsuit said Baldwin called Roice an insurrectionist and then posted her picture to his own Instagram page, resulting in immediate insults and threats from some of his 2.4 million followers.
But Baldwin’s attorneys, in asking for the dismissal, argued that Baldwin cannot be sued for calling the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 an “insurrection,” as many other Republicans, Democrats and political officials have referred to it in the same way.
As such, the actor was simply stating his opinion on an issue, the lawsuit said and should not be punished for it.
“Baldwin cannot be sued in Wyoming or be held liable for stating this political opinion,” the attorneys said. “A contrary ruling would violate the U.S. Constitution…violate Wyoming common law and result in an outcome [the McCollums] claim to detest: a society in which someone can be legally punished for political speech.”
The attorneys also argued that since Baldwin has no connection to Wyoming, the federal court has no jurisdiction in the case and said that the messages between Baldwin and Roice McCollum where he referred to her as an insurrectionist were private and not shared with his followers, so his statements could not be considered defamatory.
“The claims based on Baldwin and Roice’s private Instagram messages are defective, because private communications between two parties cannot be defamatory,” the court documents said.
Nor did Baldwin ever make comments about Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s other sister, or Jiennah McCollum, his widow, so there are no claims they can make against him, the memo said.
The attorneys additionally claimed that since Roice McCollum previously stated she had been in the area of the Capitol prior to the attack, Baldwin did not intrude on her privacy by sharing that she was an “insurrectionist.”
As a result, the lawsuit against Baldwin should be dismissed as an assault on the rights of free speech, the memo to U.S. District Judge Kelly Rankin said.
“Should we open the courthouse for claims against everyone who has publicly referred to January 6 as an “insurrection”—the Democratic Party, some members of the Republican Party, Senator McConnell, President Biden, nearly every major news organization, and more?” it asked. “Would this case exist if Baldwin weren’t a well-known actor? Would Plaintiffs be asking for $25 million? No, clearly not.”