‘Media Men’ Lawsuit Ends in a Settlement

More than five years after the creation of a crowdsourced Google spreadsheet that included anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent men in the media industry, the author Stephen Elliott, who was named in the document, has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the list’s originator, the journalist Moira Donegan.

Mr. Elliott, a novelist and nonfiction writer, filed the defamation lawsuit in federal court in October 2018, a year after the spreadsheet had been created and shared. The defendants were Ms. Donegan and the document’s many still-anonymous “Jane Doe” contributors. Mr. Elliott, who had sought at least $1.5 million in damages, said the settlement was in the six figures. Lawyers on both sides of the case notified the court on Friday that they had agreed to a dismissal, according to court records.

Ms. Donegan started the spreadsheet anonymously on Oct. 11, 2017, in the early days of the #MeToo movement. She took it offline after about 12 hours, she said, but it had already gone viral, leading to an article on BuzzFeed and reproductions on Reddit. By then, the document had grown to include 70 names, with allegations ranging from unwelcome DMs to violence. On the list, Mr. Elliott’s name was attached to “rape accusations, sexual harassment” and “coercion,” among other things.

In a January 2018 essay, Ms. Donegan revealed that she was the creator of the spreadsheet. In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, she said, “The idea was that women could use it to name somebody who had behaved badly toward them, whether through sexual assault or rape or harassment.”

Ms. Donegan, who is now a columnist for The Guardian’s U.S. edition, writing on politics and gender, had support in her legal fight from early on. Her lawyers represented her pro bono, and a GoFundMe page for her fees and expenses raised more than $116,000.

Ms. Donegan declined to comment for this article, and her lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

The duration of the legal battle figured in Mr. Elliott’s motivation for settling the case, he said. By the time settlement discussions had begun (in October, according to court records), a trial date had not been set. None of the anonymous contributors — Ms. Donegan’s co-defendants — had been identified in court.

“The lawsuit had gone 4.5 years and would have gone four more years, I think, before going to trial,” Mr. Elliott said in an emailed statement to reporters. “They were doing everything possible to avoid defending their views in court. So when they offered enough money I agreed to settle.”

Mr. Elliott, a founder and former editor of the online magazine The Rumpus, has maintained that his “life is permanently changed as a result of being falsely accused of rape.” He claimed to have been fired by his agent and to have lost friends and connections in the literary world, not only because of the allegations against him but because he was pursuing legal action. Graywolf Press, which published a book of Mr. Elliott’s essays in late 2017, criticized the author in a Twitter post, writing that his lawsuit was “not consistent” with its values of “empathy, understanding and generosity of spirit.”

With the lawsuit concluded, Mr. Elliott feels that his name is cleared, he said via email. But the settlement, he pointed out, did not come with an apology — “which I didn’t want anyway because what’s the point if they don’t mean it?”

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