Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free

(There are several updates at the bottom of this post)

I don’t often get legal threats, but I’m kind of tickled to get this one:

———- Forwarded message ———
From: AUSTIN AYERS
Date: Mon, Oct 26, 2020 at 10:41 AM
Subject: Offensive Twitter Posts
To: WRCT General Manager
Cc: WRCT Business, WRCT Social Media, WRCT Public Affairs

To whom it may concern,

I am reaching out to you as a community member about an offensive
Twitter post that was shared among someone portraying to be with your
station.

Jay Thurber had posted online some hurtful things about me over the
summer that was just brought to my attention. I am a decorated first
responder with nearly a decade of service. I started when I was
14-years-old and I do not appreciate the hurtful lies being spread
about me.

On July 20th, he had posted this:
https://twitter.com/JayThurberShow/status/1285238728861061121

“Fake news king”, really? I used to work for KDKA-TV/CBS News and I
was full-time at the Leader Times, which used to be owned by the
Tribune-Review.

He had also tried to say that I was the writer behind an article that
aired on WPMG.net… which is not true. I helped design the website
and internet radio station, that was it. I really do not appreciate
him using the CMU brand on his account while spreading lies about me.

He also had posted an off-the-wall link to a malicious website that is
full of trackers and malware, urging people to click on it and read
it.

He also shared a similar link to the same website, which has been
deemed fake by the police. They are very aware of the blogger behind
the site since he is under investigation for pretending to be a City
of Pittsburgh police officer.

Thurber continued to say I was allegedly “running around in a fake EMS
vehicle”, which is blatantly false. I am in EMS, yes, as an EMT-B
trainee. I am a student at BC3. This was not an EMS vehicle, and it
was never portrayed to be as such.

“The police take a dim view of civilians showing up at emergencies
with their own home-made emergency vehicles” is what Thurber had said.

He also continued to spread a fake post by Benjamin T. Wilson, who
admitted over private messages that he fabricated the post to “get me
out of the film industry” because of my political views.

Thurber continues with his vile rants.

“Why do I care? As a lot of you know, I’m a ham radio operator, and
Austin was a pest in that community a few years ago. He gave ham
operators a bad name.”

I am demanding that CMU and WRCT acts on this before I go before the
media, both print, television, and online. I want his entire thread
removed from Twitter and I do not want to have this discussion again.
Not only will I go before the media, but I already have a local law
group proceeding with motions in court to stop all of this harassment.

Thank you,
Austin Ayers


Me:


My Response:

Re: Offensive Twitter Posts
From: Jay Thurber jaythurbershow@gmail.com
Tue, Oct 27, 2020 at 8:23 PM
To: ayersaustin

October 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Ayers:

I write regarding your legal threat to WRCT Radio Inc., where I serve
as a volunteer.

My social media account is not supervised by WRCT Radio Inc. and they
have no control over its content.

You object to certain tweets posted on my personal Twitter account,
twitter.com/jaythurbershow.

You say, “Not only will I go before the media, but I already have a
local law group proceeding with motions in court to stop all of this
harassment.”

I would be delighted to get you in court and have you under oath.

You never worked for CBS or KDKA. You also never worked full-time for
TribLive, unless it was delivering papers. The only reference the
Tribune-Review has to you is about a hoax you pulled in 2015:
https://archive.triblive.com/news/facebook-page-scuttles-plans-for-butler-county-fake-tornado-drill/

Since you have threatened litigation, I am hereby putting you on
notice to retain any and all business records, copies of
correspondence, emails, and login information to your Facebook pages
and websites, because my counsel will need those documents and files
during any possible discovery process.

Now, let me explain a couple of things to you:

1.

Opinions are not libelous or slanderous. See Gertz v Robert Welch Inc.
(1974) which holds that there is no such thing as a false idea. My
opinion and belief are that you are responsible for spreading
dangerous misinformation through a network of websites that
impersonate legitimate news organizations.

2.

Truth is an absolute defense to a libel claim. I am prepared to prove
that you have created a network of Facebook pages and websites going
under various names, including but not limited to:

Butler Dispatch
FTS Pittsburgh
KNNP-TV Pittsburgh
PA Breaking News
Penn Informer
Pennsylvania Conservative Club
Pennsylvania Media Group
Pennsylvania Weather Authority (1)
Pitt News
Pittsburgh Breaking News
Pittsburgh TV News
Radio Pittsburgh
Steel Town News
WPMG-TV Pittsburgh

All of these “entities” list as their business address, or otherwise
can be traced to, (ADDRESS REDACTED) Kittanning, PA.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, your amateur radio
license, (REDACTED), is also registered to (REDACTED) Kittanning,
PA., which would lead any reasonable person to conclude that you
reside at this address and are responsible for these “entities.”

“Butler Dispatch LLC” lists its address on the Better Business
Bureau’s website (2) as “(REDACTED), Evans City, PA 16033” and
its “Principal” and “Owner” as “Austin Ayers.” According to the FCC
database, (REDACTED), Evans City, Pa., is your former address,
when you previously held the amateur radio license (REDACTED). (3)

There is no doubt that you are responsible for these websites, and
possibly others.

I have done the necessary research and retained screenshots of your
various websites and Facebook pages, and I am prepared to prove this
in court, if necessary.

By the way, your “Pitt News” Facebook page infringes on the good name
and reputation of The Pitt News, the student newspaper of the
University of Pittsburgh.

I have informed both Facebook and the University of Pittsburgh of your
infringement on their copyrighted publication.

3.

Criticism of people and events in the news, honestly made, is
protected speech and is not libelous or slanderous. See Hoeppner v.
Dunkirk Printing Co.
(1930). Every American citizen has the right to
comment and criticize matters of public concern.

On multiple occasions, Mr. Ayers, you or your websites have published
or caused to be published alarming information, which makes you a
figure of public interest and therefore subject to fair criticism.

For example, on March 13, your “WPMG-TV” (sic) website alleged that
UPMC Health System was concealing positive COVID-19 cases from the
public.

This report, incidentally, was what first brought your activities to
my attention. UPMC, Allegheny County Health Department and the state
Department of Health all confirmed that your report was fictitious and
served no useful purpose except to attract attention to yourself.

(Although you have apparently closed down the “WPMG” website, it is
still available at Internet Archive. You are listed on the “Our
Editorial Team” page as “President/News Director.” (4))

As recently as yesterday (Oct. 26) you posted a story (5) on your
website, PABreakingNews, claiming that Pennsylvania was in danger of
“treacherous condition” (sic) due to a “snow and ice storm” that you
were tracking.

You cited The Weather Channel as a source. The Weather Channel has
issued no such warning for Pennsylvania. Neither has the National
Weather Service.

Since your websites feature advertising, I can only assume your
stories are designed to generate “clicks,” and that each “click”
results in advertising revenue for yourself.

“Butler Dispatch” purports to be “largest news media outlet in Butler
County, Pennsylvania.” A Google search for “Butler Dispatch” could not
find a “Butler Dispatch” website, which is odd for the “largest news
media outlet in Butler County.”

The same Google search, however, does find as its third result a
Facebook group called “Stop Fake News in Butler, PA” (6) which
contains multiple complaints from Butler County residents about
false news stories posted on the “Butler Dispatch” website in 2017
and 2018.

It is fair for me to comment that your stories are non-factual and
meant to alarm the general public and enrich yourself; see Bose Corp.
v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc.
(1984), which established
that a negative review of a product or service does not constitute
libel or slander.

4.

You purport to represent various corporate entities, including
“Pennsylvania Media Group LLC.” I have checked with the Pennsylvania
Department of State’s Corporation Bureau and no such LLC exists.

However: I did find court records, indicating that in 2018, you were
arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police, Butler Barracks, after you
attempted to solicit someone to fire shots into another person’s home.
Court records indicate you pleaded guilty.

This is not the behavior I would expect of a “decorated” first-responder.

I further see that in October of this year, you pleaded guilty to two
motor-vehicle equipment violations filed by Pennsylvania State Police,
Kittanning Barracks. I am not sure, but I suspect these violations are
related to your personal vehicle, which you have decorated for your
fictitious “West Central Emergency Medical Service” (7).

Your arrest reports list the same address (Kittanning, Pa.) as your
various “businesses.”

In short:

Mr. Ayers, you have a long history of:

• Hiding behind names of fictitious businesses
• Creating Internet presences that purport to be legitimate news outlets
• Posting scary stories to alarm the general public and enrich yourself
• Engaging in unlawful and/or unethical behaviors

Your activities therefore represent a danger to the general public,
serve no legitimate purpose, and are thus of public interest.

I see no reason to retract my comments on Twitter. If anything, I
could have gone further and been harsher.

I trust that there will be no more threats from you, or “persons”
claiming to represent you.

I consider the matter closed.

Sincerely,
“Jay Thurber”

(I have edited my email slightly to remove some personal information and remove some details that I thought were inappropriate for a general audience.)

 

UPDATE: Mr. Ayers has responded. I mean, he’s not wrong. I am a total ass:

UPDATE 2: I am remiss in not mentioning that Don Carpenter, who runs the blog “Rogue Journalist,” has been tracking Austin’s exploits for a while now. You should go read it.

Also, Matt Haslam of the Pennsylvania Equality Project examined Austin’s work, too. I discovered their post after I wrote this. You should go read it: “Transphobic Outlet Turns Into Smoke and Mirrors

Finally, local filmmaker Benjamin T. Wilson has some thoughts about Austin as well, and has alleged that Austin harasses women who won’t work with him, calling them “sluts” and “c-nts” and telling them things like “go suck another cock.”

UPDATE 3: About an hour after this blog post went live, I received an anonymous comment via ProtonMail that said, in part, I am “trash” and told me “go suck the cock of Zeus.” Always nice to have a fan!

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