The war of words between prominent left- and right-wing voices could turn into another legal battle.
Lawyers for author Andy Ngo claim political consultant Gregory McKelvey made false and defamatory statements during the run-up to the publication of Ngo's first book, "Unmasked," a less than flattering look at the local anti-fascists known as antifa.
McKelvey had panned Powell's Books for keeping Ngo's tome for sale online — though the bookseller pledged not to stock physical copies on its shelves in response to protests — with McKelvey writing in a Jan. 11 tweet that Ngo "provided kill lists to Neo-Nazis," "rioted with far-right activists at a local bar" and "consistently and purposely puts people's lives in danger."
Ngo's regular counsel, Harmeet K. Dhillon, called the claims "shockingly false" in a formal cease-and-desist letter demanding an immediate retraction and apology, or else.
"The magnitude of this utter fabrication, which accuses Mr. Ngo of conspiracy to commit murder and other felonies, is staggering, and needless to say, irreparably damaging to Mr. Ngo," according to the four-page letter.
.@GregoryMcKelvey, on 11 Jan., 2021, you shockingly accused me of perpetrating crimes, including submitting lists of people to be assassinated. You are hereby on notice by my counsel, @dhillonlaw, to cease and retract your defamation, and to issue a statement of apology. pic.twitter.com/T5B97f0NIp— Andy NgÃ´ (@MrAndyNgo) February 4, 2021
The "kill list" allegation appears to refer to an instance from Ngo's days as an editor for the online magazine Quillette, which published in 2019 an article by Eoin Lenihan purporting to link journalists with activists because they had interacted on Twitter. Several of the journalists involved said they received threats to their lives after the article's publication, including in a now-deleted YouTube video from a user who supported a terrorist group called Atomwaffen Division.
More recently, activists have asserted that Ngo's publication of mug shots endangers them.
The riot allegation likely recalls the infamous Cider Riot brawl on May Day 2019, in which Ngo appeared near members of the Patriot Prayer group during the altercation. Ngo has said he was there that day as a journalist, not a participant, and was distracted by his phone when the right-wing activists were discussing their plans for a confrontation.
McKelvey, reached for comment, indicated he has no plans to apologize: "The evidence of what I said is readily available," he told the Tribune.
"On the one hand it sucks his publicity stunts often target Black people," he added in a public tweet. "But on the other hand I welcome the opportunity to substantiate the harm he has caused in a new platform. He really did pick the wrong guy to pick on though. Let's get it."
On the one hand it sucks his publicity stunts often target Black people. But on the other hand I welcome the opportunity to substantiate the harm he has caused in a new platform. He really did pick the wrong guy to pick on though. Letâ€™s get it. https://t.co/poRQr3tXKX— Gregory McKelvey (@GregoryMcKelvey) February 4, 2021
Ngo, a long-time Portlander, relocated to London in January, describing his fears of persecution by activists. McKelvey, who ran a near-miss mayoral campaign for Sarah Iannarone last year, was hired as an advocacy director for the Praxis Political consulting team in January as well.
It wouldn't be without precedent for Ngo to promise a defamation suit that never came to pass. Dhillon sent a three-page cease and desist letter to the Portland Mercury in 2019 disputing their article detailing Ngo's embedded status with Patriot Prayer during the Cider Riot bar fight.
The Mercury never retracted the article, and no lawsuit was filed.
There has been little movement of late in Ngo's other lawsuit — this one against Rose City Antifa and several people accused of assaulting him during protests. Judge Stephen Bushong on Dec. 23 granted Ngo's request to serve some of the plaintiffs by publishing legal notices in the Oregonian, since they are believed to be in hiding and cannot be handed the papers in person.
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