Rightwing influencer forced to pay $1.1 million to Black drag queen she lied about

Mona Liza Million performing at Coeur d’Alene's Pride in the Park event
Mona Liza Million performing at Coeur d’Alene's Pride in the Park event Photo: Screenshot

During Pride Month in 2022, as the right was protesting drag performances across the country, calling queens “groomers” and worse, conservative influencer Summer Bushnell posted a doctored video of a drag queen supposedly exposing herself to children in an attempt to “prove” that drag queens should not be allowed to perform in public.

Now she has to pay $1.1 million in damages for defaming drag performer Mona Liza Million, who goes by Eric Posey when not in drag.

“Why did no one arrest the man in a dress who flashed his genitalia to minors and people in the crowd,” Bushnell posted to Facebook in 2022, referring to a Pride performance in Idaho by Posey. “No one said anything about it and there’s video. I’m going to put up a blurred video to prove it.”

It turns out “no one said anything about it” because it never happened. The “blurred video” she posted was of Posey fully clothed, except that it was blurred so the thousands of people who viewed the video couldn’t see that he was clothed.

People saw Bushnell’s post and started calling the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police to report Posey. The police said that none of the complaints they received were from people who actually witnessed Posey’s performance.

After reviewing the original, unblurred video, the City of Coeur d’Alene Prosecuting Attorney’s Office released a statement saying, “The allegations of indecent exposure, or other crimes cannot be supported by the evidence. Therefore, prosecution is declined.”

But that didn’t stop the online reaction. Posey explained at trial that he received death threats and that images from Bushnell’s doctored video of him became a symbol used by the right in their attempts to get drag performances banned.

Some conservative influencers like Chaya Raichik, the person behind Libs of TikTok, have made entire careers out of accusing LGBTQ+ people – and especially drag performers – of “grooming” children, but Bushnell’s attempt to do the same didn’t go without response. Posey decided to sue her for defamation.

“After three months of silence, it is now my turn to speak,” he said in a press release in September 2022. “Despite being cleared of all wrongdoing, provocateurs have continued to spread the doctored video of my performance, not only defaming me, but also inciting a backlash towards the LGBTQIA+ community statewide.”

“I have no choice but to take legal action to hold those responsible for the lies accountable for their actions. My hope is that this civil suit puts a stop to the hateful disinformation campaigns being waged in Idaho.”

Coeur d’Alene’s Pride in the Park drew national attention this summer when police arrested 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front on their way to disrupt the event. Posey asserted that Bushnell sought to capitalize on that attention.

Bushnell’s lawyer tried to argue that his client’s actions were “close to the line” of defamation but didn’t quite meet the definition.

Even worse for the defense, Bushnell admitted that she never saw Posey expose himself. That is, she wasn’t mistaken; she knowingly lied.

Posey cried as the verdict was read. The jury awarded Posey $926,000 in compensatory damages for defamation and $250,000 in punitive damages because Bushnell had a reckless disregard for the truth.

“The judicial system did what needed to be done,” Posey said after the verdict on Friday. “Imagine being in a dark hole where you have nobody and you felt the whole world turn their back on you. But somehow, you were surrounded by warriors, true people of Idaho – not transplants, true people of this soil. I am fortunate to say I have people like that around me, people that lifted me up.”

The trial lasted for five days, and the jury deliberated for three and a half hours this past Friday, according to The Guardian. Jurors asked the judge if they could order Bushnell to take down the Facebook post and publicly apologize, but the judge told them that they could not. The video remains on the social media platform.

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