A sarcastic and dismissive Arianna Huffington has taken to openly mocking a lawsuit filed by labor activist Jonathan Tasini, calling it "utterly without merit" and marked by "utter cynicism" while also revealing that she has compiled a group of emails from Tasini which effusively praise The Huffington Post's publishing model.
On Tuesday Tasini, who has twice run for the U.S. Senate, filed a class action lawsuit against the Huffington Post seeking $105 million. Tasini, who had previously blogged for the site, compares Huffington to a slave master. "In my view, the Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” Tasini said.
Tasini's comments were echoed by a Los Angeles Times reporter Tim Rutten earlier this year. And on Thursday, Huffington came out swinging against both men.
"The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Jonathan Tasini is so utterly without merit, and has been so thoroughly eviscerated in the media, I am hesitant to take any time away from aggregating adorable kitten videos to respond," she wrote in a piece posted on The Huffington Post. She went on to call the slavery metaphor "deeply offensive," citing a column written by Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason. There is a key difference between "slavery" and "choosing voluntarily to write for free for one of the country's most popular political websites." For example, in slavery, it was not uncommon to be deprived of your freedom, separated from your family, whipped by an overseer, and raped by your boss."
Huffington noted that Tasini's lawsuit was deliberately timed to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Regardless, it's clear that Huffington plans to vigorously defend herself. "I'm looking at the proof of it right now: multiple emails (now collected in a legal file) Tasini has sent to me and the HuffPost blog team over the years, extolling the virtue and value of blogging on HuffPost," she wrote. "In one, he gushes over HuffPost's ability to create buzz and drive traffic to his website. In another, he enthuses over the fact that the National Journal picked up and linked to one of his HuffPost blog posts. In a third, he recommends a friend who would like to blog on our site. Then there is an exchange over the treats he has sent to our blog editors to thank them for their help."
Later on Thursday, Tasini took the the Web to rebut Huffington's response—and he hardly minced words, calling Huffington "unhinged and disingenuous" and someone who exploits others.
"People who exploit others do so out of fear," Tasini wrote. "Fear that they will lose control. Fear that they will lose wealth and power. Fear that anyone would challenge their worldview."
Tasini admitted that he didn't know whether his lawsuit had a chance. Instead, he looked to paint himself as someone standing up against an injustice, and urged bloggers to organize sooner rather than later.
"Do not wait for the court case to play out," he wrote. "Organize now. This is an opportunity to change the future. The rhetoric that you should work for free, create value for media CEOs and enrich them, and only them, and, then, be satisfied that you just got published, read or seen has very little to do with the digital age."