The vice chairwoman of the Republican Party in Haywood County has filed a lawsuit against a group of conservative activists, claiming they’re behind a series of comical internet memes that she says have damaged her reputation.
Debbie King seeks in excess of $75,000 in damages from the Haywood Republican Alliance for “emotional psychological distress, embarrassment, humiliation, physical disability, loss of appetite and stress.” King is also asking that the defendants cease distribution of the eCards and buttons, which were created on the JibJab website by placing her mugshot into existing music videos.
The suit cites two farcical music videos released last spring that depict King and Haywood GOP Chair Ken Henson engaged in flirtatious poses. One videos features the two set to Sonny and Cher’s hit “I Got You Babe” while another involves the 1997 hit song “Barbie Girl.”
Defendants include Richard Owen West, Jeremy Davis and Eddie Cabe of Haywood County, all of whom are listed as members of the political action committee known as Haywood Republican Alliance. A website for the group describes it as a coalition of conservatives working to advance conservative principles in government and the Republican party.
The alliance was created last year, after its members were ousted from the Haywood GOP by mainstream Republicans, reports The Mountaineer newspaper of Waynesville. The group’s members have been accused of trying to undermine the county’s Republican Party.
Exactly who made the memes and eCards remains in dispute. But the lawsuit claims Cabe and Davis are culpable for its spread in cyberspace via emails and had the images placed on campaign buttons to distribute at rallies, fairs and social entertainment events. The suit says the defendants participated in the sale and dissemination of the items for profit without King’s consent to use her image.
“As a result of these wrongful torturous acts, (King) has been damaged in her reputation, her prestige, her social standing and has suffered embarrassment and humiliation amongst the community and amongst her peers, friends and acquaintances,” says the lawsuit. It goes on to say the defendants acted “spitefully” to cause ridicule.
Defendant Jeremy Davis told the Smoky Mountain News on Feb. 11 that neither he nor anyone else named in the suit was responsible for generating the video, but he did make “a dozen or two” of the buttons were given away rather than sold.
“All she has to do – if she can’t stand public scrutiny for all the nefarious things she’s done – is step down,” Davis told the Smoky Mountain News. “If she can’t deal with a little criticism for her actions, she doesn’t need to be in that position. She needs to have thicker skin.”