Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, is suing Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who says the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax, 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government and Chobani imports migrant rapists to Twin Falls.
Chobani sued Jones and his InfoWars website on Monday in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where the company operates the largest yogurt plant in the world. The lawsuit said Jones, his network, and InfoWars’ Twitter feed and YouTube channel repeatedly published false information linking Chobani, owner Hamdi Ulukaya and Twin Falls to a sexual assault case involving refugee children at a Twin Falls apartment complex.
Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, has drawn threats for advocating for immigrants and refugees. The company employs more than 300 refugees at its plants in Twin Falls and upstate New York.
Twin Falls drew national attention in June 2016 after three refugee boys sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a laundry room at an apartment complex. Right-wing websites, including Breitbart News, fanned flames of several conspiracies, including that a group of Syrian men had attacked the girl, that a rape had occurred, that a knife was present and that city officials attempted to cover up the crime, the Times-News in Twin Falls reported.
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Police and prosecutors said the conspiracies were false. While details remain unclear because the file remains sealed, prosecutors said one of the boys touched the girl while the other two filmed on a cellphone. Police and prosecutors said there was no rape, no knife was present, and authorities followed proper protocol, the Times-News reported. The three boys, ages 14, 10 and 7, each pleaded guilty to one or more felony charges April 4.
The lawsuit highlighted several InfoWars headlines and statements promoted on various platforms that the company said unfairly linked Chobani to the crime. They include:
▪ "Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists."
Alex Jones and InfoWars ignored Chobani’s repeated requests to remove the inaccurate coverage, the lawsuit said.
“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said.
Chobani seeks at least $10,000 in damages, attorney fees and punitive damages.
Chobani also wants InfoWars to acknowledge its inaccuracies. In addition, Chobani said InfoWars violated the Idaho Consumer Protection Act by knowingly misrepresenting facts.
InfoWars did not immediately reply to the Statesman’s request for comment.
Jones’ Monday through Friday radio show is broadcast by about 60 stations nationwide, including KIDO-AM (580) in Boise.
Jones is currently in a child custody battle with his ex-wife in a Texas court. Jones’ attorney said his client’s angry, on-air rants should be considered performance art and should not be used against him in the custody case.
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews