Former GOP congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik’s defamation lawsuit against right-wing provocateur Candace Owens, who accused Klacik of being a strip club “madame” who spent campaign funds on cocaine, has been tossed out by a Tennessee judge with prejudice.
Not only is Klacik unable to file similar complaints against Owens going forward, but the judge also granted the right-wing personality’s petition to dismiss Klacik’s complaint pursuant to the Tennessee Public Participation Act, the state’s anti-SLAPP law. Such laws allow defendants the ability to “dismiss meritless lawsuits—known as ‘SLAPPs’ or ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’—filed against them for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Klacik is now required to pay Owens a total of $115,000, which includes all attorney fees and discretionary costs. The one-time rising Republican star has 60 days to pay the majority of the judgment.
According to this final order, both Klacik and Owens agreed to the stipulations.
Klacik initially filed the $20 million complaint against Owens in August 2021 in Baltimore County Circuit Court, claiming a “petty Twitter feud” between two of the most prominent Black conservative commentators escalated to the point of Owens unleashing a 44-minute Instagram video last June that Klacik claimed cratered her burgeoning right-wing media career.
According to the initial suit, not only did Klacik’s appearances on conservative cable dry up, but the pro-Trump pundit also lost a book deal, was pulled from political fundraisers, and had her contract with a “nationally recognized vendor” scuttled. Since then, however, Klacik has continued to use her social-media accounts to promote her appearances on various right-wing channels and local TV stations, as well as a regular spot on talk radio.
The back-and-forth between the two prominent Trump supporters, per the lawsuit, began when Klacik responded to a tweet from Owens criticizing President Joe Biden for recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Several days after Klacik tweeted about Owens’ “lack of engagement with black people,” Owens—a host for Ben Shapiro’s right-wing empire The Daily Wire—published a lengthy video alleging Klacik of engaging in felonious behavior during and after her failed congressional bid.
In that video, Owens acknowledged that she is “not an investigative journalist” and “could not confirm” her allegations against Klacik. At the same time, however, the Kanye West ally still accused the ex-candidate of “money laundering, tax fraud, and campaign fraud.” She further alleged that Klacik recruited strippers to a strip club Owens claimed the GOP candidate’s husband owns, along with urging her campaign vendors to “move money off the books.”
“Basically, the judge has decided he's not going to dismiss the case as Candace Owens wanted to,” Klacik said in one video. “And so he has granted us discovery to figure out exactly if there was actual malice in this case.”
At the same time, Klacik had contacted several media outlets—including this reporter—in an effort to have a story written about the judge’s supposed denial of Owens’ motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. After The Daily Beast reached out to Owens and her attorney, she fired back at Klacik with her own Instagram posts.
“To be clear… Kim and I did not even have a hearing on a motion to dismiss. This simply never took place. I did not even know how to respond to the journalist other than to say exactly that. My lawyer (and then Kim's lawyer) then provided the reporter with the truth,” Owens stated.
She added: “Respectfully, The Daily Beast reporter then wrote me back and admitted that everything he was initially told was untrue and that now that he had looked further into the matter—he was declining to write the article.”
On Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge C. David Briley granted Owens’ motion to dismiss Klacik’s lawsuit—and ordered Klacik to pony up for filing what the state deemed a meritless case.
“The Parties stipulate that the Defendant’s Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-17-104(a) Petition to Dismiss the Plaintiff’s Complaint Pursuant to the Tennessee Public Participation Act (Doc. 8) should be and is hereby GRANTED,” the court’s order reads. “Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s Complaint, and all causes of action asserted within it, shall be and are hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.”
Additionally, Briley also found in favor of Owens being owed the $115,000 judgment, inclusive of all claims for attorney’s fees and discretionary costs. “The Defendant agrees not to execute on this judgment provided that Plaintiff pays $75,000.00 to Defendant within sixty days of entry of this order and Plaintiff pays to Defendant the balance of the judgment, in full, within six months of entry of this order,” Briley wrote.
“For context, that is a record anti-SLAPP judgment in Tennessee,” Owens’ attorney Daniel Horwitz told The Daily Beast. “I happen to know, because I won all the previous record anti-SLAPP judgments in Tennessee on behalf of people who were baselessly sued for their constitutionally protected speech, too.”
He added: “This case ended as a complete and total win for Ms. Owens, as we promised it would all along. Hopefully, this landmark win will also deter other politicians from filing baseless SLAPP-suits in the future.”
Klacik and her attorney Kathryn Wood did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Klacik rose to fame during the 2020 election when she ran an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Maryland House seat vacated by Rep. Elijah Cummings’ death. Before losing to Democratic candidate Kweisi Mfume, she became a MAGA star and earned a Republican National Convention speaking slot over a viral video featuring her walking the streets of Baltimore and proclaiming that “black people don’t have to vote Democrat.”
Owens, of course, has become one of the more provocative voices in the conservative movement, regularly amplifying far-right conspiracy theories and talking points from her perch at Shapiro’s burgeoning media kingdom. In recent months, she’s courted more controversy via her friendship with antisemitic superstar Kanye West, now known as Ye.
After posing in a “White Lives Matter” shirt alongside the rapper and initially defending his increasingly unhinged bigotry towards Jewish people, Owens has largely gone silent in her boosterism of Ye after he went full Nazi.