Did NHPR Reporting Withhold Key Details in Spofford Story?
New Hampshire Public Radio listeners were shocked by reporting that Granite Recovery Center CEO Eric Spofford was accused of sexual harassment. They may also be shocked to learn the publicly-subsidized news outlet never reported key facts when NHPR broke the story last year, according to new court filings.
The story about the sexual harassment allegations aired over two days last March and was also the subject of NHPR web and a podcast.
Spofford is suing New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Lauren Chooljian, alleging she engaged in a biased campaign targeting the politically-connected businessman. He and his lawyers are heading to Rockingham Superior Court on Tuesday to challenge NHPR’s motion to dismiss the case. Part of his argument will be that the original radio broadcast held back facts like Spofford’s vehement denials, that New Hampshire’s attorney general was not investigating Spofford, and that a crucial witness contradicted NHPR’s reporting.
“That truth is that they knew their reporting about (Spofford) was false, or at least recklessly disregarded that falsity, but published it anyway,” Spofford’s attorney Michael Strauss wrote in a motion filed Friday.
According to Strauss, the left-leaning media outlet did not hand over copies of the radio story as it aired in March until Wednesday after weeks of legal wrangling over the discovery process. The station also tried to withhold promotional recordings.
And now, just days ahead of the hearing on NHPR’s motion to dismiss, Spofford has learned the split broadcast resulted in a misleading story presented to the listeners, Strauss wrote.
“NHPR defendants necessarily appreciated that publishing their salacious story in two parts over two days would mean that some listeners would only know part of the story,” Strauss claims.
The first day of the story’s broadcast did not include information about the New Hampshire attorney general having never received a complaint alleging Spofford engaged in sexual harassment. That would have to wait until the second day. Nor did the first day include Spofford’s legal representative issuing a denial of the accusations. That would again have to wait, according to Strauss.
More troubling, listeners were never informed that a Granite State Recovery executive challenged the facts NHPR reported on the first day. Chooljian heard from the executive after the first story aired, Strauss wrote.
“NHPR Defendant Lauren Chooljian spoke to former GRC Director of Human Resources, Lynsie Miterer, who gave information to Chooljian that cast serious doubt on the veracity of her reporting about (Spofford,)” Strauss wrote. The station never included any information from Miterer in the second broadcast, according to Strauss.
NHPR’s attorney, Sigmund Schutz, dismissed Spofford’s claims in a response to Friday’s filing. Schutz wrote there should have been no surprise that the story was broadcast.
“Given the distinctly non-secretive nature of a radio broadcast, and NHPR’s openness about being in the radio broadcasting business, it should have been patently obvious that its story had been broadcast on the radio,” Schutz wrote.
The questions about the two broadcasts come weeks after Spofford claimed in court that evidence Chooljian used in her reporting simply does not exist. Chooljian reported on sexually harassing texts and a Snap Chat photo of a penis one of the victims received from Spofford. However, Spofford claims those texts and photos were never created by him, to begin with.
“Chooljian did not see the picture on which Elizabeth’s claim is based (because it never existed,)” Strauss wrote in a previous filing.
Strauss has also signaled to the court that one of the key sources used by Chooljian was Spofford’s aggrieved ex, Amy Anagnost, who was motivated by a desire to defame Spofford to get the upper hand in a custody battle over their son.
NHPR denies Anagnost was one of the sources used for the reporting.
Spofford is a Republican who has supported Gov. Chris Sununu in the past, and NHPR makes no secret of its left-of-center politics or its animosity toward GOP politicians. During the 2022 election cycle, it arranged a U.S. Senate debate with incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan before Republicans had even held their primary, and they brought in a far-left journalist who formerly worked at “Bitch Media” to help moderate the debate.