Rapper Talib Kweli Sues Jezebel for $300K, Claims Emotional Distress

·4 min read
Santiago Felipe
Santiago Felipe

Two years after getting banned on Twitter, rapper Talib Kweli is blaming Jezebel—not his own words—for his social-media exile.

The rapper and activist on Monday filed an angry, sprawling, and typo-riddled lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court against G/O Media, its women-focused site Jezebel, and journalist Ashley Reese. In the 34-page missive, which he filed without a lawyer, Kweli claimed a 2020 Jezebel story written by Reese detailing his “harassment campaign” against a Black woman on Twitter left him in emotional distress and partial financial ruin because the outlet failed to fulfill its “duty” to fully include his perspective.

“The defendant negligently breached that duty by taking all the facts that the plaintiff stated and publishing them on the articles for 11 million plus to witness as they tried every angel [sic] to prove his facts were false, then attacked everything about his career, life, age, family,” he wrote. “The defendants are a women’s magazine, and Talib Kweli was the target to impose…The publications didn’t consider the reaction that would affect Talib's career with the attempt to harm his reputation.”

When reached for comment, Reese, who left Jezebel earlier this year, referred The Daily Beast to G/O Media. “Jezebel’s article fairly reported on the controversy which led to the permanent suspension of Talib Kweli’s Twitter account,” a G/O Media spokesperson wrote in a statement. “This suit, filed two years after the story was published, has no merit and the company will be seeking our attorneys fees pursuant to the protections afforded to the press to publish stories about matters of public interest like this one.”

Kweli, who despite a Twitter ban still posts regularly for his 1.1 million followers on Instagram and Facebook, did not respond to a request for comment.

The saga started in early July 2020 when Twitter user Maya Moody remarked how multiple Black rappers featured in a Twitter thread—including Kweli—were married to light-skinned women. Kweli snapped back, saying Moody didn’t know what she was talking about. “Are we talking all of my relationships? My children’s mother as well?” he wrote. “I mean, is any of this really your business?”

That tweet launched Kweli’s crusade, which involved a torrent of tweets aimed at Moody for hours on end. Kweli was eventually banned from Twitter later that month, hours after he tweeted he was taking his talents to “the greener pastures of @Patreon.” Twitter Support told Jezebel that Kweli’s suspension came from repeated violations of its harassment policies. “Violence, harassment and other similar types of behavior discourage people from expressing themselves, and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation,” the platform wrote at the time. “Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.”

The episode was written up in an August 2020 Jezebel article, titled “Talib Kweli’s Harassment Campaign Shows How Unprotected Black Women Are Online and Off,” in which Moody said she and her family received a flurry of doxxing attempts and death threats as a result of Kweli’s online missives.

In his lawsuit, Kweli claimed the Jezebel story intentionally ignored his point of view to “slander him as the bad guy,” citing excerpts from the story that he felt downplayed his perspective to uplift Moody’s.

“The magazine took advantage of Talib and used him as a guinea pig to clarify how black men treat black women,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, the plaintiff never harassed anyone; he was defending himself and his family.”

Kweli included the story and his emailed response to Reese as evidence exhibits. In the suit, he also cited his song “Brown Skin Lady,” recorded in 1998 with Mos Def under the group Black Star, as proof he harbored no resentment toward darker-skinned women.

“Defendant failed to protect the artist based on his true statements, including his ex-wife, his child's mother, and child,” he wrote. “Defendant published an article as if Mr. Greene's statements were false, and that he was some monster that didn't like black women, when 500k plus of his fans are black women, his ex-wife and child's mother are black women, and his employees are black women.”

Kweli claimed the article cost him both nearly $1 million in revenue since its publication two years ago plus 50 percent of his salary, which he estimated at $600,000. He asked the court to award him $300,000 in damages, plus legal fees.

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