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ACLU Joins NHPR Lawsuit, Spofford Says Lewd Photo Used to Bolster Story Doesn’t Exist

New Hampshire Public Radio is gaining allies in the lawsuit brought by Granite Recovery’s Eric Spofford. The New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union is leading a coalition of news outlets signing amicus briefs in favor of the public broadcaster.

But the show of support for the left-leaning media outlet comes as major evidence used to report the story is in doubt, according to court records filed in the case.

Spofford is suing the broadcaster claiming he was defamed by a series of stories alleging he sexually harassed women at the addiction recovery centers he founded. In one of the more damning portions of the story, one of the alleged victims said Spofford sent her lewd text messages and a photo of his penis.

But Spofford claimed in a recent court filing that NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian never saw the alleged photo before she reported that it had been sent to the victim.

“Chooljian did not see the picture on which Elizabeth’s claim is based (because it never existed,)” the filing states.

The New Hampshire ACLU, along with the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Union Leader, the Keene Sentinel, Caledonian Record, and the Laconia Daily Sun filed a brief in the Rockingham Superior Court last month to intervene on behalf of NHPR. The outlets and civil rights groups joining the case have received little media attention, and even the typically PR-savvy ACLU has yet to announce its involvement through a press release on its website.

The timing of the ACLU’s amicus filing came as Spofford’s legal team called into doubt the foundation of NHPR’s reporting. Spofford’s attorney, Michael Strauss, wrote in a court motion that one key witness used by Chooljian was Spofford’s aggrieved ex, Amy Anagnost.

“Eric has uncovered that Amy both supplied her own false claims about him to (NHPR reporter Lauren) Chooljian and served as a source clearinghouse for Chooljian as she investigated and wrote the Article and Podcast. The NHPR defendants relied on Amy and the sources she cherry-picked for Chooljian, despite her obvious unreliability (after years of long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction, she has relapsed, and that relapse occurred at or around when she started as a source for the NHPR defendants) and notwithstanding her known and unmistakable bias against and ill-will toward Eric as reflected in publicly available records,” Strauss wrote.

According to Strauss’ motion, Anagnost engaged in an effort to defame Spofford in order to gain the upper hand in family court hearings dealing with the shared custody of their son.

“A recent court filing by Amy’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Alex Anagnost, confirms that Amy ‘fed questionable information about her relationship with Eric to’ Chooljian for inclusion in the article and podcast, which Amy then used against Eric to alienate him from their son and as a weapon in their parenting dispute,” Strauss writes.

NHPR denied Anagnost was one of the sources for its reporting.

Spofford built a politically connected profile with Granite Recovery Centers. As the drug abuse recovery centers became the largest recovery facilities in New Hampshire, Spofford even counseled Gov. Chris Sununu on the response to New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic.

Spofford sold Granite Recovery Centers to BayMark Health Services, a Texas-based treatment company, last year. The sale price has not been disclosed.

Sununu: ‘I Like Joe Rogan,’ Defends Free Speech

Gov. Chris Sununu likes free speech, the First Amendment, and podcaster Joe Rogan.

Donald Trump? Not so much.

In a radio interview Tuesday morning, the Republican governor told WGIR’s left-leaning talk host Chris Ryan he opposed attempts to silence media voices like Rogan’s, whether or not you agree with their viewpoints.

“Whether it’s social media, the mainstream media, or Joe Rogan,  sometimes you get a difference of opinion — you could call it misinformation — it comes from everywhere now. To say we’re going to become the ‘misinformation police’ because we don’t agree with what they say… that’s just a complete violation of the First Amendment and goes against everything America is about,” Sununu said.

Rogan, whose podcasts attract around 11 million listeners each, is the target of progressives who want his program de-platformed by the Spotify media platform. They are angry that he has interviewed COVID-19 vaccine skeptics and other controversial figures on his show, allowing them to share their opinions. Rogan has also expressed skepticism about public health policy on vaccines, and masks.

Among the progressives pushing to shut him down are aging musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. A single episode of Rogan’s podcast draws more listeners on Spotify than a month’s worth of listeners to Young and Mitchell’s music — combined.

When Ryan argued that “mainstream media programming like his show should be viewed as more trustworthy than Rogan’s (“we have gatekeepers!”) and the confusion between what Ryan considers legitimate media and podcasts is a problem, Sununu pushed back.

“I disagree. I listen to Joe Rogan. I don’t consider him mainstream news. I like Joe Rogan I listen, I agree with something he says and disagree with others. But I would never compare him with Fox News. We have to make our own decisions about the weight we put on an individual’s words.”

Sununu also noted the irony of being asked about the Rogan controversy on CNN two days earlier.

“I thought the question was funny coming from the mainstream media — ‘what should we do about people who put out misinformation?’ I could have gone down a list of 100 things on each of the ‘mainstream’ news channels that are not true, or misinformation, or partisan leaning. But that [censoring speech] is a rabbit hole we’d never come out of,” Sununu said.

However, Sununu was less forgiving of the questionable claims coming from former President Donald Trump. Asked about Trump’s suggestion that participants in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot should be pardoned, Sununu dismissed the idea as a fringe notion.

“I understand the former president has his opinion, but I don’t think it’s shared by pretty much anyone else. I don’t think anybody thinks those who assaulted the U.S. Capitol, assaulted police officers, should be pardoned,” Sununu said. “Especially in the GOP, we believe in accountability, the rule of law, and supporting law enforcement. It would send a terrible message not to support law enforcement.

“When you look at the issues that were going on at the Capitol on that day, if we’re going to take a pass on that, we’d be saying it’s OK to take a pass on those who assaulted police and burned down cities in 2020,” Sununu added.

“There’s still a rule of law that has to prevail.”

Recent polls show a majority of Republicans want the congressional investigation into the events of January 6 to end, and only 17 percent of Republicans believe the rioters are criminals. Another 66 percent say, “They had a point but went too far.”