As Russian executive Aleksej Gubarev moves forward with his libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed News and editor-in-chief Ben Smith, his lawyers made an aggressive attempt to mock the website’s content and credibility in court filings on Monday.
According to court documents obtained by Business Insider, Gubarev’s lawyers titled their motion on Monday, “SIX WAYS BUZZFEED HAS MISLED THE COURT (NUMBER TWO WILL AMAZE YOU) ... AND A PICTURE OF A KITTEN.”
Gubarev is suing BuzzFeed and Smith for the appearance of his name in a report that contained explosive but unverified allegations about President Donald Trump. In that report, Gubarev’s name was unredacted, for which BuzzFeed later apologized. Gubarev has since denied the allegations and said no one from the U.S. intelligence community has contacted him.
The title to Monday’s filing (which actually did contain a picture of a kitten, per Business Insider), was a shot at BuzzFeed’s reputation for clickbait and articles comprised entirely of lists, known as “listicles.” And while Gubarev told McClatchy that he has very little connections to U.S. politics, his anger towards BuzzFeed has been mirrored by Trump, who called the organization a “failing pile of garbage” in a press conference soon after the report was published.
Monday’s filing itself was a response to BuzzFeed’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which argued that if the suit should proceed at all, it should do so in New York, where BuzzFeed is headquartered. In response, Gubarev’s lawyers argued that BuzzFeed has covered events in Florida, written articles about Florida and partnered with Florida-based advertisers and as such were equipped to argue their case in Florida court.
“Defendants simply do not want to be in Florida, because they believe they will receive more favorable treatment in New York,” the filing reads.
The location of the trial could be significant, due to a recent surge in libel suits filed in Broward County, Florida, as the Observer notes. After professional wrestler Hulk Hogan won $115 million in a privacy suit against gossip site Gawker in Florida, southern Florida became a hotbed for similar cases, per Robert Garson of the Observer.
In a statement to Business Insider, BuzzFeed slammed Gubarev’s lawyers and the filing.
“We're surprised by the plaintiffs' desire to make light of this matter,” the statement read. “And we are confident in our motion to dismiss Mr. Gubarev's suit.”