(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — State Sen. Dan Laughlin on Aug. 26 filed a lawsuit against the Erie Reader for a recent opinion piece.
The opinion piece, “Erie at Large: A Congressman and a State Senator Walk Into a Bar,” was written by Jim Wertz, a contributing editor and chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, and was published on July 14. The opinion piece was critical of Rep. Mike Kelly and Sen. Laughlin’s alleged involvement with efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The opinion piece also alleged that Laughlin and Kelly were included in a list of people seeking criminal pardons from former President Donald Trump.
Laughlin is seeking more than $1 million in damages from the Erie Reader and Wertz.
“There is no such list, nor was there ever such a request,” Laughlin’s spokesman Dennis Roddy said in a news release on Aug. 26. “Jim Wertz imputed criminal conduct to Dan simply because he signed a friend-of-the-court brief along with 23 other members of the state senate.
“And that brief, contrary to Wertz’s reckless claims, never sought to overturn a single vote in the 2020 election, nor did it side with any plaintiff in the case.”
Laughlin disputed the claims made in the opinion piece as well.
“There was no pardons list, my name did not appear on it, nor would my participation in an informational brief to call the Supreme Court’s attention to a tangentially related issue have warranted one,” Laughlin said. “They just made this up.”
At issue is an email sent by Sen. Mo Brooks of Alabama requesting blanket pardons for members of Congress who signed an amicus brief siding with Texas in a lawsuit.
That is not the same amicus brief that Laughlin signed, his office says. Laughlin’s office notes that the amicus he signed was clear that it was “in support of neither plaintiffs nor defendants.”
In an announcement, Laughlin’s office noted that neither the author of the opinion piece nor the Erie Reader had attempted to contact Laughlin regarding the claims.
On Friday, July 22, Rep. Mike Kelly held a news conference admonishing the Erie Reader and the opinion piece. Wertz and the Erie Reader have defended the piece.
On Friday, Aug. 26, Wertz again defended his opinion piece in a brief statement to JET 24: “I haven’t had time to review today’s filing, but the evidence is well documented in my opinion piece and readers have an opportunity to read it and draw their own conclusions regarding the effect of the amicus brief signed by Senator Laughlin. Today’s filing appears to be little more than a politically motivated attack on the First Amendment in a highly charged political moment.”
A link to the opinion piece, “Erie at Large: A Congressman and a State Senator Walk Into a Bar,” can be found here.