Missouri voter sues over McCain campaign “hate speech”

October 16, 2008

(UPDATED – adds McCain spokesman comment)

KANSAS CITY – Missouri voter Mary Kay Green has had enough.

The supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama filed a lawsuit this week over what she claims is dangerous “hate speech” coming from the rival campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

rtx9mpk.jpgGreen, a 66-year-old grandmother and “semi-retired” civil rights attorney, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City this week accusing McCain, his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and their campaign manager Rick Davis of “intentionally, recklessly and irresponsibly” portraying Obama “as un-American, a terrorist by association,   and ‘not like us,’ a non-white individual.”

Palin, Green alleges in her lawsuit, has at her rallies used false statements to work supporters “into a frenzy causing them to make death threats” against Obama.

The lawsuit claims that Green “suffers terror of the heart, anxiety and grave fear for the life of Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama” because of the McCain campaign’s efforts to invoke hatred against Obama.

A McCain spokesman said the charges were without merit.

“It’s a great country — anyone can file a lawsuit anytime on any matter, whether it has merit or not,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. “As Sen. McCain explained in detail in last night’s debate, charges like this have no merit. He will compare his record of setting the record straight to any of his overzealous or inappropriate supporters against Sen. Obama’s any day.”

Green is seeking damages of $6 million, “and prays that they cease and desist their reprehensible campaigning.” She told Reuters that she will not drop the lawsuit unless McCain’s camp repudiates the death threats and tones down the rhetoric.

“It is a federal crime to threaten the life or a presidential candidate … they are participating in that crime,” Green said.   

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria (McCain at a rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday)

51 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

This law suit is beyond stupid. I think I’ll file suit against Mary Kay Green for the offense of being stupid. It is making me really afraid and nervous.

Posted by Cindy | Report as abusive

When did such non-sense become newsworthy? They hysteria of the Chosen One’s supporters is beyond belief.

Posted by zevgoldman | Report as abusive

Good on Green! About time SOMEONE stopped that illegal, immoral, embarrassing behavior and held THEM accountable to the laws of our land! And there is PLENTY of news film footage to prove her case. You go, Green!

Posted by ByTheSea | Report as abusive

Strange but true. Only in America.

How is it that this man can associate with an admitted unrepentant domestic terrorist (Ayers); pay people to commit voter registration fraud (ACORN); publicly admit his intention to implement socialist redistribution of wealth, attend a wildly racist congregation masquerading as a ethnocentric church (for tax evasion reasons) for years, and still be considered a viable candidate for the highest office in the land?

I havent seen Sen Obama rebuke any of his supporters for their out-of-line, comments or clothing have you?

And now this woman files a lawsuit to silence the discussion of Sen Obama’s obvious disqualifications ?! This isnt hate speech. This is the unvarnished truth!

The McCain campaign has been on the side of truth from the beginning and this woman wants to see the truth SILENCED.

Posted by Tom Hunter | Report as abusive

You go Greenie. We don’t need no stinkin’ first amendment. Wait till O is elected and we have our demo house and senate. The it will be plainly written into law that you cannot criticize him.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

You know I think some of the comments were pretty nasty. I think this is the very slander that Green is so apalled by. I would highly doubt her bottom line is $6 million. I am all for her wanting John Mccain and Sarah Palin to stop with their very dangerous slander of Obama. While I don’t think justice would be served if she were to win, its still a marvelous sentiment. Why can”t MCCain and Palin focus on the issues? If they are such mavericks why continue the Republican tradition of slandering the other candidate. Be Mavericks and talk about the issues.

Posted by Rachel Wonderland | Report as abusive

I am glad to see someone do this. I am disgusted with McCains campaign and I think this is a legit lawsuit. This Lady is awesome! God bless her!

Posted by membery | Report as abusive

Green has turned green in her head. There’s more hate speech from the Obama camp.
Obama does have ties to a domestic terrorist plus to a slum lord plus to a racist preacher plus to the nutty Acorn. What else. Hmm – for a guy running for President – it’s a pretty shoddy record.

Ms Green, the retired civil rights attorney should consider filing the lawsuit against mccain et al as a class action lawsuit. i am confident there could be hundreds of thousands of voters who believe that they have been damaged, just as she, and that mccain et al are guilty of inciting hate and violence by virtue of the monstrous and incendiary comments in their campaign speeches.

Does Mary “Kay Green have a screw loose. The McCain campaign never did any such thing. I agree with Cindy. Such stupidity. But you know how some attorney’s are. Sue, sue,sue.
ByTheSea needs to get a life. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There have been may diragatory, untrue and mistated statements made against mostly Palin by Obama campaign. The democrats have dig in against Palin’s personally life which didn’t belong there. They actually started the battle.

Posted by Concerned | Report as abusive

I have been contacted by the Obama campaign that while Senator Obama addressed the death threats in last nights debate, he is fully confident of the capabilities of the Secret Service to protect his life.

There have been reports today of more threats at McCain and Palin rallies. Senator McCain, who was in Hanoi when the nation mourned the assasinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kenney, does not seem to understand the seriousness of these threats, the concerns they create and the need to state he abhors this criminal conduct by intruders in his campaign rallies. He has not specifically addressed the death threats. Once Senator McCain makes this statement and his running mate Sarah Palin as well, I will dismiss my lawsuit. But he must make a specific statement calling these death threats abhorant to him and Sarah Palin and that they will not be tolerated at their rallies.

Mary Kay Green, Plaintff pro se.

Ms Green is a known anti white racist, her actions should be taken in that context.

Posted by Verity | Report as abusive

Why do campaigns have to stoop to such low levels of decency? The reality is that the McCain camp has gone too far with their lies about Obama.

Guilt by association is not a valid claim. Especially given the minor association on the board. Why should any one be accused of being unAmerican because they served on the board with someone who years ago allegedly comitted terroristic acts when Obama was a kid. America has no forgiveness either.

That is not “palling around with terrorists” as Palin, who constantly states baseless rubbish, repeately says. This is one alleged “terrorist” who is not a focal point of Obama’s life.

Many have discounted how racist America is, and this type of talk that has nothing to do with McCain’s almost nonexistent campaign should be stopped. You complain about Rev. Wright, but at least he was speaking from his reality, his experience, his life in a racist society. He was not making it up. Some folks just can’t stand the truth.

Posted by Tell the Truth | Report as abusive

I guess the fact that the Secret Service looked into the ‘death threat’ issues, and found them to be lies, tends to take the wind out of this nutjob’s sails.

Posted by Uncle Jefe | Report as abusive

Ayers is a CONVICTED terrorist. Not an alleged one.
In his own words “Guilty as H@ll, Free as a bird” Thats the TRUTH.

Posted by Tom Hunter | Report as abusive

Theres no proof these threats happened. Assuming they did, how can you be sure it wasnt an Obama supporter trying to make the McCain Palin campaign look bad?

What prevents an angry McCain supporter from doing the same thing at an Obama rally? Nothing.

If that happens, will Green then sue Obama? Dont think so.

Posted by Tom Hunter | Report as abusive

By giving so much weight to whatever McCain and Palin have to say about Obama, just serves to make their statements that much more “valid” or “important”. But if you ignore their mean spirited babbling, you take the wind right of their sails. Let them blather, their ship will be sunk soon enough!

For those who are not aware, Freedom of Speech does not protect anyone who uses language in such a manner as to attack an individual for race, national heritage, religiion, or creed. If Ms. Green has not used Title 42 section 1985(3) I would ask her to look at it. It was decided years ago “Breckenridge” (U.S.Supreme Ct)that it included political groups and not just race. It has been used successfully in cases that demonstrate the “in office” vs “out of office”. Title 42 1985(3) was enacted because of politics and the KKK which is, and was, a political group.
Hate speech is not protected speech.

Posted by Denise Holmes | Report as abusive

Good for Ms. Green. It is about time someone brings this mess to the forefront. It is obvious that McCain and the Bush in a shirt Palin are desperate and will do anything to win. Both of them should be called on the carpet for thier irresponsible and non presidential behavior.

Posted by sbharris | Report as abusive

YOU GO GIRL! GO GREEN! I WANT TO JOIN THE CLASS ACT SUIT. ENOUGH OF THE HATRED. Unite all for change.

I’m just a middle class 50 year old white woman who wonders how anyone who has listened to any news at all can honestly think Barack Obama is a terrorist or not a Christian man. It is a sad time to me that this country is still so ignorant. I grew up in a community with 2 black people in the entire community. There was NO diversity and yet I have grown to realize that exposing myself to the diversity of this country has helped enable me to grow to be the person I am today.

To all of you who are making excuses for the ignorance of others, are you the ones who put white sheets over your heads and burned crosses? Maybe we should go back to the days of slavery and make a law that if you have a name that is different, if your skin is a different color than white, if you have a slang or an accent you should be burned at the stake. NO ONE should tolerate the cries of hatred! Shame on ALL the people at the McCain/Palin rallies. They all should have turned on the offenders.

If Green wins, the amount may be re-adjusted to $6, minus attourney fees = -$9994. However, if there is justice in the American heart, McCain will lose the race for losing his head, leaving Green in the red, and the country in the clear.

Posted by J.K. | Report as abusive

As a shot across the bow of the excrementally inclined Sarah Palin and her methuselah runnign mate, I think Mrs Green has done the right thing. It’s a test case for those who are appalled by the vile rhetoric of the morally bankrupt.

That so many poisonous bugs and biting insects have crawled out of the woodwork to assail Obama and back-up the McCain raving monster party, is interesting yet thoroughly informing. Like the scorpion, they sting because that’s what they do. It is the nature of the racist and hate-mongers that they support the disgraceful, disgusting and reprehensible claptrap that has come out of the mouths of a group of people who loath other people who have different skin colors.

I rest my case… :-)

Posted by TheTruthIs... | Report as abusive

Neighbors in my suburb who support Barack Obama are afraid to put campaign signs in their yard because they fear repercussions from some nutcase being stirred up by the McCain/Palin campaign. This is reprehensible, America, and is turning our progress on race issues back to the dark ages. The McCain campaign (in concert with its mouthpiece Fox News) is fully aware of what its doing with the inflammatory line “palling around with terrorists.” They are trying to tie Obama to the Muslim extremists that attacked us on 9-11. McCain himself says he doesn’t care about Bill Ayres, dismissing him as some “dried up old hippie.” So if you don’t care about some dried up old hippie, Senator, what’s your justification for keeping up the drum beat against Obama for “palling around with terrorists.” Don’t think for a moment that the McCain campaign is backing off of this tactic — they are just going undergound with it now, using robocalling in swing states with their fear-mongering. McCain is a weasel of the worst sort for condemning in public the very behavior his campaign tactics are designed to elicit.

Posted by McCartney Barnes | Report as abusive

The hate speech and threats are real, the incitement by Ms. Palin is real; it is on video. The overuse of the legal system via lawsuits is also real. In their own ways both things reflect the worst in us. While overt inflammatory speech which clearly incites violent intent must not go unchecked, Ms. Green’s course of action will likely do her cause more harm than good. The backlash against Palin’s behavior has already done more to moderate the situation than a lawsuit ever will. In the meantime we can expect backlash against the lawsuit.

So much wasted energy. I for one am looking forward to more grown up times. It will take a long while from the look of things. However, as an independent I invite everyone to question just how well either of our two major parties represent us, and how much we really benefit from a two-party system. Both candidates talk about the need for major change. Once we break away from a system that gives power to a 51% “majority” we might really see one.

Posted by Ryno | Report as abusive

The words of Vice President Henry Wallace in 1944:

“The really dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

They claim to be super patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise but are spokesman for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjugation.”

Green’s lawsuit is NOT about money: it’s about urging McCain/Palin to act RESPONSIBLY. If Obama-supporters were calling for McCain or Palin to be MURDERED, the same people dismissing Green’s stand would HOWL IN OUTRAGE. The longtime “lynch-mob mentality” of some white people is echoing today–and THAT’S THE REAL DANGER in this capaign season.
One would think that white working-class people who are lsoing jobs.losign homes, having their kids fight in endless UN-necesasruy wars would ahve had enough by now…but, just raise the flag of white supremacy & racism & these idiots go for it every time.
END THE HATE. WAKE UP. The right-wing is destorying this country (while babbling religous platittudes they do NOT live) all innthe service of the REAL: elititists: Corproate Greedh3ads who just ripped you off for $750 BILLION. The problem ain’t Black people! It’s the TOP 5% wealthy stealing from all the rest of us.

Posted by Lydia Howell | Report as abusive

Ms. Green, I think what you have done is a brave thing and it isn’t about the money but about the moral issue of not going and rallying people up to become mobs. It’s mob mentality like this which has caused people to die for no reason other than the person was ‘different’ in some way. It’s also supporting prejudice because these people who attend and are so vocal with hate at these rallies do not -research- and use their brains. They are followers who want a fight.
Palin seems the most hostile and I wish she’d just go home. Ever since she came on the campaign trail with less experience than anyone else, she has only stirred up trouble with her big mouth and she’s the last person to mention Rev. Wright, Ayers, or justice considering she associated with a preacher who did crimes in Africa and is far worse in demeanor and bigotry, she supports the organization to help Alaska ‘succeed’ from the U.S. and the guy who leads it is pretty well close to being a terrorist and he’s an adult -doing- the deeds still and she also has fired someone who only a month earlier she highly praised because he wouldn’t fire a trooper in a dispute. Yet I note that Obama has been polite even when he could have said the worst about that woman and at least admitted she’s hardly worthy of being a heartbeat away from presidency. Keep up the good fight and if you do lose, it was still worth a try. After all, all you are asking for is for McCain and Palin to call the acts abhorrent, which they are.

Posted by Zarthus | Report as abusive

Ms. Green should be disbared. She is a disgrace to a disgraceful profession.
Know what 10,000 lawyers on the bottom of the Ocean are?
..a good beginning!
Note to Ms. Green:
Get a life!

Posted by Sundance 44 | Report as abusive

Now let me get this straight, some facsist’s rights lawyer from Missouri has decided to sue John McCain and Sarah Palin using some Obama campaign talking points and some Obama campaign lies as the basis for a lawsuit that mocks the First Ammendment of the United States Constitution. Add to that the fact that some of the selfish Democrats in our midst believe that throwing free speech in the trash in order to help their chosen candidate is the right and proper thing to do. Let me be clear, when your candidate inspires you to deny the right of political free speech to others you need serious phychological help. It is likely far too late for Ms. Green but others should heed that advice, get thee to a doctor!

Mary Kay Green, the lawyer who has filed this disgraceful suit wrote the following in the above comments, “(o)nce Senator McCain makes this statement and his running mate Sarah Palin as well, I will dismiss my lawsuit. But he must make a specific statement calling these death threats abhorant to him and Sarah Palin and that they will not be tolerated at their rallies.” For starters, no less than the Secret Service has already come out and said that there have been NO “death threats” made at McCain or Palin rallies. Further what makes Ms. Green believe that she can end the right to political free speech, the most protected speech in this nation? As Dean Wormer said in the movie Animal House, “Seven years of college, down the drain.”

A civil rights lawyer who is against free speech. How novel. Shouldn’t she be called an anti-civil rights lawyer?

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Ok everyone I am absolutley sick and tired of this “Obama convorts with terrorists like Ayers” statement. Yes Obama has met Ayers. He met him at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge which was sponsered by Walter and Lenore Annenberg to the tune of 50 MILLION dollars. Oh you dont know who they are?? They just so happen to be top Mccain supporters. So by the same logic that people are saying that Obama convorts with terrorists then the statement “Mccain recieves money from terrorist supporters” is then correct.

Posted by MPB | Report as abusive

I do appologize to Lenore Annenberg. Walter passed away in 2002. I did not intend to make my statement sound that Walter supports Mccain when it is only Lenore that supports him.

Posted by MPB | Report as abusive

Palin’s hate speech is so over the top that it belongs in Nazi Germany…NOT the USA! She is a hate monger, GOP pitbull and represents everything that this country should stand against. Shame on you McCain for letting this go on…you have a career to protect, she on the other hand will go back to Alaska (if they still want her) and hopefully never get elected to anything more important than Trash Pickup!

Posted by Karen Sicard | Report as abusive

Mary Kay is correct in asking for accountability from the McCain and Palin campaign. I watched the rallies on TV and U-tube and I was sickened… It was like watching a KKK rally. If there is no validity to the accusations, than why did they both back peddle last week to defend Senator Obama against the very rhetoric they have been perpetuating? What irony. Ignorance, fear and hate are being served up on a big heaping platter for all of America right now and its being gobbled up by the folks calling themselves conservative Christians. Wouldn’t Jesus be impressed?

Posted by Dieting in KC | Report as abusive

Hurray for her! I think her case is a good one because I too fear for Mr. Obama’s life especially since Mrs. Palin seems to be intent on spreading the lies. At least Mr. McCain has actually spoken up on occasion. Yet he allows Palin to continue this race baiting and hate mongering speech.

Posted by Raven Ivanov | Report as abusive

Why is she suing? Shouldn’t Obama be suing McCain’s camp since he is the target of the hate speech? He’s the victim not her.

Posted by iafrate | Report as abusive

I can’t believe you are reporting on this lawsuit, but not a peep about Berg v. Obama.

Posted by Paige | Report as abusive

More proof that democrats and other leftists only value speech when it aligns with their thoughts, beliefs and doctrines. The real fascists are those who wish to use the law to constrain those with whom they disagree from expressing their opinions, usually labeling them as “hate speech,” a term not found in the First Amendment. Get ready to bend over America, because Comrade Obama and his socialist friends in the “Democratic” Party have censorship in store for you, for your own good, the good of the country, and for the children. Stalin would be proud.

Too bad fooling a majority of the foolish is the criteria for getting elected and is considered by these same idiots as being tantamount to legitimacy. America deserves Obama.

Posted by Iosef D. | Report as abusive

I was wondering when someone was going to demand justice, and have the nerve to call this hate speech what it is. For those of you who think it is a waste of time to pursue civil justice in the event of hate speech against a political candidate, read your country’s history of people like JFK, Lincoln, and RFK, where hate speech and racism lurked in the political atmosphere.

It was inexcusable then, and it is now. I support this lawsuit.

Oh it’s rich watching the same members of the left who have spent the last eight years joking about presidential assasination crying “hate speech” about an incident that from all accounts tell us a reporter made up.

Posted by slf | Report as abusive

It is distressing to hear one presidential candidate call another a terrorist. Yes, you might say no one said so, but the only reasoning for such repeated statements is that you get that image into your head.
McCain might equally be called by association a Nazi sympathiser (how does that go down with the Jewish voters?), but that too would be nonsense!
Such statements are however the tactics of Neo-Nazis and other fascists banging the fear drum, and evidence of a disrespectful attitude towards others.
The McCain tacticians must believe we are all (or enough of us) dumb cattle driven mainly by instincts rather than critical thought. (Let’s hope we have evolved a bit.) This is for me the only logical conclusion from having heard this terrorist thing again and again.
(By all means similar does speak true for many such messages used in campaigning. After all, too long and complete a message could fry your brain, so keep it short, radical and sticky.)
This is a game at the lowest level…

Please do not vote for any candidate using, what I call, fascist like rhetoric.

Posted by PJ | Report as abusive

Blatant assault on free speech.

Luckily for us the 9th Circuit has already ruled that it’s OK for politicians to outright lie during their campaigns, not that the ruling would be needed anyway.

Posted by Idris | Report as abusive

Inciting violence is not protected by the first amendment. I’m glad that someone is standing up to McCain’s deplorable tactics.

Posted by AntiPalinRepublican | Report as abusive

All of you McCain supporters ought to get a grip. Although I have not yet decided who to vote for, Taxes always represent a redistribution of wealth. The most recent, extreme example of this is the appropriation of 750 Billion to bail out banks and Wall Street, which we as Taxpayers are going to pay for in the end. Those of you who do not believe that’s a redistribution of wealth are living in a dream world. I lean towards the Democrats this year because of the negative attitude of the Replublicans. We should all be upset with the way the campaign has been going because to overcome the economic crisis and put this country back on track, we will all have to get along and work together. We should condemn demagoguery and unite to solve common problems and to reach common goals.

Posted by Alaska Non Partisan | Report as abusive

I am an attorney too, and in my opinion this lawsuit is frivolous, ridiculous and a complete waste of the Federal Court’s resources where it is filed. I hope the Federal Judge uses the Federal Rules at his disposal to sanction this plaintiff and member of the bar (who should know better) for wasting his or her court’s time.

Posted by George A. kiser | Report as abusive

This lady is absolutley right, somebody has to have the courage to stop this undeserved abuse and character assassination. If any one of us said these horrible and untrue things about another human being –and said that in such a way that people feel driven to threaten to assassinate a presidential candidate, we would be in jail. We wouldn’t allow the KKK to blatantly encourage murdering people. Why should a Presidential or Vice presidential candidite be allowed to do it? Not only is this sort of behavior very shallow; it just encourages someone who is a little bit “off” or fanatical to do something crazy.
McCain and Pailin are depending on Christian Evangelicals and Conservatives to get them elected. But I can’t think of anything more Un-Christian than attacking people, lying and hate mongering. All the claims that McCain and Pailin make have been investigated and found false. If Obama really was a terrorist, he never would have passed the background and security checks that are conducted before a person has access to classified government information.
Personally, I think this is a situation of “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. All we have to do it look at the personal lives and records of McCain and Pailin to see that both have been involved in very public scandals, their spouses have been involved in scandals, and neither of them is fit to serve in any public capacity. They belong in jail for racial and ethnic hate crimes; not in public office.

Posted by kathy | Report as abusive

Reminds me of the song ” It’s been a long time coming”.
Applause for you Mary Kay. I can’t understand why this hasn’t been done before. Only the un educated and mis informed could fault you. Not the sharpest tacks in the box. Best of luck !

Posted by Betty | Report as abusive

Greene, are you related to Cynthia McKinney? Why don’t you try to ‘moveon.org’, get a real life and quit wasting the courts already overburdened schedules with your dribble!!!!

Posted by Eda Bates | Report as abusive

Again, the president seems to think that everyone will accept his ideas because he is the “Messiah”. However, if he were to ask the leaders of the states in which he wants to place the terrorists from Cuba, if they would permit such, he would find out that few leaders of any states are willing to accept them. After the president states that he wants to put them in a particular state, he finds out that the terrorists are not wanted there. It would seem to be, to avoid the embarrassement, he would ask first, but his ego will not permit him to ask, he assumes that everyone will agree with him because, after all, he is the “Messiah”, therefore, he knows what is best! He doesn’t think rationally, therefore, he keeps stepping on his own toes and wonder why that hurts!

Posted by Henry Flynn | Report as abusive