Louis Farrakhan Sues Simon Wiesenthal Center

December 13, 2023

Relying on their First Amendment rights, attorneys for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center Jewish human rights organization moved to dismiss meritless defamation claims by The Nation of Islam and its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, based on allegations that the Center called them anti-Semitic.


In a motion to dismiss filed December 12, 2023, in U.S. District Court in New York, lawyers for the SWC and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center’s Global Social Action Director, noted that “it is more important than ever for Jewish organizations and individuals—and hopefully all organizations and individuals—to be able to call out anti-Semitism in order to counter it, without fear of the legal system being weaponized to silence them. These First Amendment protections are critical, and indeed, foundational to our American democracy.”


The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s motion cites FBI statistics that while Jewish-Americans represent only 2.4% of Americans today, they account for approximately 60% of all religious-based hate crimes. “In their synagogues, their children’s Jewish day schools, their kosher markets, on college campuses everywhere, and in fact, just walking down the street, Jews in America today are under siege,” according to the motion.


The filing is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s response to a $4.8 billion lawsuit the Nation of Islam and Farrakhan filed October 16, 2023, for alleged defamation against the Center and Rabbi Cooper, a noted expert on online hate and terrorism who this year was named chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Also named as defendants were the Anti-Defamation League and its chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt. 


“We all not only have a Constitutional right but a duty to call out every form of anti-Semitism. Sadly, we live in a time when hate will continue to spread unless we are free to confront it,” said Rabbi Cooper.


The filing seeks to dismiss the three counts in the lawsuit involving the Center and Rabbi Cooper, which is based on “two opinions expressed by the defendants calling them anti-Semitic,” according to the court papers. 


“Regardless of whether Plaintiffs made their allegations against Defendants in good faith, Plaintiffs’ baseless defamation claims should be dismissed because, as a matter of law, the statements were non-actionable opinions that were made without malice.”


Two of the counts, the filing argues, should be dismissed “because both Federal and State Courts in New York consistently hold that accusations of anti-Semitism (or similar bigotry) are protected opinions, which cannot serve as the basis for a defamation claim. In addition, the filing argues that “Plaintiffs do not—and cannot—allege that Defendants made any statements with actual malice as is required.  Since the statements at issue involve matters of public interest, and Plaintiffs admit Farrakhan is a public figure, Plaintiffs must prove that the allegedly defamatory statements were made with actual malice.”  According to the filing, the third count against the center and Rabbi Cooper should be dismissed on its merits “because it utterly fails to allege any statement—much less a defamatory one—by any Defendant.”  

In fact, “Plaintiffs seek here to rewrite decades of legal precedent and overturn the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.”


Said Patty Glaser, “The last two months has seen an exponential rise in antisemitism across the United States triggered by the tragedy in the Middle East. Using the courts to tie the hands of those speaking up  against hate and bigotry is against the freedoms that define our nation.”


Added Julie Gerchik, “Just as one should have the freedom to speak out against racism, sexism, homophobia and other reprehensible forms of hatred, all of us must be free to speak out against antisemitism without fear of reprisal.”


The filing requests that the court dismiss the claims with prejudice. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Cooper are represented by Patricia L. Glaser and Julie R. Gerchik of Glaser Weil Fink Howard Jordan & Shapiro LLP.

For further information contact the Center’s Communications department at pressinquiries@wiesenthal.com, join the Center on Facebook, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.


The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization. It holds consultative status at the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS, and the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO).

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