John Dossett, former general counsel to the National Congress of American Indians, is suing High Country News, Indianz.com and Indian Country Today for defamation in a $ 6-million lawsuit filed in the District of Oregon. In the complaint dated August 29, Dossett says he was defamed in stories regarding sexual assault allegations published in the latter half of 2018.
“All three have published false rumors and unsupported allegations of sexual harassment as fact,” Dossett said in an email interview with Indian Country Today. “I am especially disappointed that my former employer, NCAI, has failed to set the record straight. I look forward to clearing my name in court.”
Dossett is specifically suing the parent companies of the news organizations. Indianz.com is owned by Ho-Chunk, Inc and Noble Savage Media, LLC., and Indian Country Today is owned by the National Congress of American Indians. High Country News is one entity.
All news organizations involved in the lawsuit have declined to comment at this time.
The 31-page complaint calls for compensation in lost wages and pain and suffering. It also calls for the involved news publications to discontinue publishing stories that include “defamatory content” and retract stories that have already been published.
Dossett says this news coverage has caused irreparable harm to his life. The complaint states: “The dozens of articles repeating the false rumors have made Mr. Dossett un-hirable, effectively ending a distinguished legal career and his hope to become a law professor. These false accusations have also severed relationships with hundreds of work colleagues and burdened Mr. Dossett's relationships with family and friends.”
The defendant's response of pleading will be due by September 21.
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is the Rowland and Pat Journalism Fellow at Indian Country Today and a reporter-producer. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @aliyahjchavez
All Indian Country Today employees involved in this litigation have recused themselves from coverage on this story.