Dave Portnoy, the founder of the sports and culture website Barstool Sports, is suing the digital news outlet Insider.com over the publication of two stories that quoted women accusing him of sexual misconduct and assault.
Portnoy, 44, has vehemently denied that he sexually assaulted anyone or filmed anyone without their consent. After the initial story, he waged a rhetorical war on Insider.com, which is owned by the German media conglomerate Axel Springer and was formerly known as Business Insider.
Last week, Black and senior features reporter Melkorka Licea published a follow-up article under the headline: “3 more women say Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy filmed them without asking during sex.”
In a lawsuit filed Monday in the District Court in Massachusetts, Portnoy accuses Insider — including the company’s chief executive, top editor and two correspondents — of “willful and unlawful defamation and privacy rights violations” over the publication of the stories.
“We stand behind our reporting and will defend the case vigorously,” an Insider spokesperson told The Washington Post.
In an editor’s note last week, Insider global editor in chief Nicholas Carlson — who is named in the lawsuit — defended the news value of the two stories about Portnoy. “When a rich, famous, and powerful person uses their power in a way that is harmful to other people, it is newsworthy,” he wrote. “When such a person faces such accusations from credible sources and denies them — and then more accusers make new, credible accusations that corroborate and add detail to the alleged pattern of behavior, it is newsworthy.”
Portnoy first floated the idea of suing Insider on Twitter in early November. He has also taken aim at the background of Insider chief executive Henry Blodget, a former Wall Street analyst who was permanently barred from the industry in 2003 for allegedly committing securities fraud. Portnoy posted a video in which he pantomimed hitting Blodget in the head with a mallet and vowed that “your head is going to be on my spike.”
Portnoy charged in the lawsuit that Insider “pursued a preconceived and biased agenda aimed at damaging [him]” to gin up business for the site, which, like many news publications, charges readers for online subscriptions. The site’s publication of “highly personal and private information” was a violation of privacy laws in Massachusetts, where Portnoy lives, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit accuses Insider of contributing to “the climate of fear and ‘cancel culture’ permeating the media, whereby it has become open season for anybody to make any claim (no matter how vile and unsupported) about anyone seemingly without consequence.”
The pair of Insider stories “have had a disastrous effect on Mr. Portnoy’s personal and professional reputation,” the suit claims.
Portnoy, who is seeking a jury trial and compensation, also alleges that Insider timed the publication of the two articles about his personal conduct to hurt the stock value of Penn National Gaming, which owns 36 percent of Barstool Sports. An Insider spokesperson strongly denied that allegation.