Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss finally receive justice for Giuliani’s Big Lie
Recently we saw a monumental verdict in federal court against one of Donald Trump’s primary co-conspirators in perpetuating the 2020 election lie — former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
That should not be too big a surprise, as many of the former president’s co-conspirators have been found guilty or pleaded guilty in cases brought against them.
But the verdict this past week in the civil defamation case against Giuliani is stunning when you consider his racist lies and cowardly actions against a Black mother and daughter, which subjected them to vile threats and left them fearing for their lives.
Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, were volunteer poll workers in Georgia on Election Day, 2020. Their responsibilities included a host of tasks related to processing the vote.
After Trump lost the election, Giuliani accused the two women of stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes for Joe Biden.
A TV camera had captured one of the women passing a breath mint to the other. This small gesture, in the mouths of liars, became as deadly as an earthquake, with Trump and Giuliani falsely claiming that the volunteers were secretly stuffing the ballot box for Biden.
Fox News and other right-wing propaganda outlets repeated the lie for more than a year. Giuliani infamously told Georgia lawmakers that a video circulating online showed “Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss … quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine.”
Giuliani used racist tropes to vilify them, and the Trump mob went after them. It was another “the Black-women-did-it” lie and it unleashed a torrent of harassment and hate.
Freeman and Moss sued and went into hiding. The vitriol and death threats they faced forced them to move from their homes and get 24-hour security. They have had to constantly look over their shoulders. Their lives have been forever upended.
This is not new in the racist playbook in America, just the latest version of “The Black man did it,” the age-old lie that white racists use to demonize Black people. That lie was used to justify the lynchings of people of color, so the racists could steal their wealth, property and truth.
The “Black-man-did-it” lie has destroyed the lives of countless Black men and women over centuries. One of the most famous incidents is the false accusation attributed to white Oklahoma elevator operator Sarah Page after a confrontation with Black teenager Dick Rowland more than 100 years ago.
This lie was used to justify the annihilation of one of America’s most prosperous Black communities. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street was burned to the ground, and an estimated 1,000 or more Black Americans were murdered in the onslaught. This large community of Black-owned businesses and homes was never to return.
And let’s not forget 14-year-old Emmett Till, lynched in 1955 after a white woman lied about him.
The foundation of this racial trope goes back to the transatlantic slave trade, when the head of Portugal needed to justify the enslavement and torture of Africans. To dehumanize them, he had his lead religious figure create a book claiming Africans were a lesser, evil race.
A modern-day example is the Charles Stuart case. Stuart used the “Black-man-did-it” lie to cover up his own involvement in the gruesome murder of his pregnant wife. The lie led the Boston police to terrorize the Black community for weeks until they wrongly pinned the murder on William Bennett, a young Black man from Roxbury. Though the truth came out a month and a half later when Stuart jumped from the Tobin Bridge in an apparent suicide, that did not end the torment of the falsely blamed Black man. He went to jail for another crime, found guilty based on the same exact description.
The lawsuit by Freeman and Moss initially sought $48 million in damages for the lies Giuliani spread about them. During the trial, Giuliani brazenly repeated those lies out on the steps, in direct contradiction to his own statement to the jury.
The jury found Giuliani liable and awarded $148 million to Freeman and Moss. Afterward, the women said they were pleased the jury sent a strong message with the verdict. But no amount of money can replace the lives these two great American heroes have lost. (They filed a second lawsuit after the verdict when Giuliani continued to lie about them).
It is important to remember the origins and purpose of the “Black-man-did-it” lie still used by Giuliani, Trump, Fox News and modern-day white supremacists.
It is so they can steal our truth, wealth and property. They are trying to steal our American democracy and all the hope and promise that makes us whole.
A priceless treasure indeed!