A gym owner in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a defamation lawsuit against another person and the website he used to claim the owner participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the suit filed on April 16, Jim Worthington — who owns Newton Athletic Club in Bucks County, Pennsylvania — alleged Gregory Bullough and MoveOn.org made “false, malicious, [and] defamatory” claims against him. Worthington’s suit is in relation to Bullough’s petition started on Jan. 10 that instructs the local community to “end partnerships with Newtown Athletic Club” over the business owner’s supposed role at the Capitol.
“The violent attacks on our nation’s capitol building while the legislators were carrying out their sworn duty was an attack on American Democracy and its Constitution,” the petition reads, which has over 7,200 signatures as of today. “Schools, particularly religious ones should not be associated with it, or with any business that supports or enables it.”
While Worthington organized three buses with 200 people total to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, he asserts in the suit that he was not even at the Capitol riot and did not commit any illegal activity. Worthington contacted the petition owner after it was started and demanded it be removed due to its false premise, but never received word back.
“The freedom of speech that we enjoy in this country does not give an individual or an organization license to make false, malicious and defamatory accusations of criminal conduct that are intended to harm Mr. Worthington and the NAC,” attorney Geoffrey Johnson said, who is representing Worthington.
The Pennsylvania gym owner made headlines last year when he defied overbearing COVID-19 restrictions in the commonwealth and reopened his business. “My only quote is these three words: exercise is medicine,” he told NBC News at the time.
Bullough claimed in a since-deleted Facebook post Worthington “organized three busloads of seditionists to converge on the U.S. Capitol,” but does not specify the evidence he has that the gym owner was a rioter and did not attend the protest with colleagues and leave, like most people. Worthington seeks $50,000 in damages.
This article was updated for clarity.