Native transgender lobbyist sues conservative news website for libel

A Native American lobbyist is suing an online newspaper in eastern Montana for libel, claiming the publication made claims that damaged her ability to perform her job, and is seeking $250,000 in damages from the Montana Daily Gazette.

Adrian Jawort, a transgender lobbyist for Montana Native Voice, is suing the paper for claiming that she cornered a state Senator and Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy, who escorted the Senator to the sergeant-at-arms for his protection.

Jawort denied the allegations in the paper and asked the Montana Daily Gazette to remove the written account of the alleged incident and correct the reporting. The Montana Daily Gazette refused to do so, standing by its account. That account offers no source and neither Laszloffy nor the state Senator, nor the sergeant-at-arms appear to have been contacted by the online outlet.

Lawyers Rylee Sommers-Flanagan and Raph Graybill are representing Jawort and said they’ve talked to the parties named in the publication and are prepared to prove the event which alleged lawmakers needed protection from Jawort “never happened.”

“This obviously causes immense reputation damage and harms my performance to do my duties to not only me, but the organization I work for, Montana Native Voice,” Jawort wrote in her complaint.

Matthew Monforton, the attorney for the Gideon Knox Group, the organization that runs the Montana Daily Gazette, said his client stands by the reporting.

“We are confident that at the end of the day, the Montana Daily Gazette will be fully vindicated,” he said.

The incident, which was reported by the Montana Daily Gazette, was part of a profile it did on Jawort, titled “Who’s the Gothic Transvestite Haunting the Halls of the Montana Capitol.” While the author doesn’t have a byline other than “Publisher,” Monforton confirmed the identity of the writer is Pastor Jordan “J.D.” Hall.

The article, which claims Jawort is mentally ill and is debilitated with gender dysphoria, is a mix of a little reporting and a lot of commentary about her.

“Fooling precisely no one, the man has been seen wandering the Montana State Capitol like an out-of-place Sasquatch in goth make-up, looking for a snack or someone to yell at. The ill-tempered, dress-wearing man was regularly seen in the gallery of both the House and Senate, chastising legislators with his wagging, giant man fingers, and sitting in fish-net stockings reapplying his make-up with all the precision of a birthday clown with a bad hangover,” the article stated.

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