Phoebe Bridgers says she stands by the statements she made in an October 2020 Instagram post that led recording studio owner Chris Nelson to sue her for defamation.
In a series of filings in Los Angeles on Monday, the “Motion Sickness” singer asked the court to strike Nelson’s complaint on the basis the lawsuit is “seeking to chill” her allegations of abusive conduct in violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.
“I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true. My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr. Nelson make, as well as my own observations,” the musician wrote in a sworn declaration filed Monday. “I continue to believe the statements that I made were true.”
Nelson first sued Bridgers in September with claims she “maliciously and intentionally” posted her statements on social media knowing they were “false.” He said the “misleading” post caused him to lose business and suffer damages of at least $3.8 million.
In her post, Bridgers voiced support for her friend Emily Bannon, who previously dated Nelson, as she directed her followers to Bannon’s Instagram story titled, “I stand in Solidarity with those coming forward with allegations against Chris Nelson.” The Bannon thread accused Nelson of fraud, theft, and violence.
“I witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson, owner of a studio called Sound Space,” the post that appeared on Bridgers’ Instagram account for 24 hours read. “For anyone who knows [Nelson], is considering working with him, or wants to know more, there is an articulate and mind-blowing account on @emilybannon’s page as a highlight. TRIGGER WARNING for basically everything triggering.”
According to Bridgers’ anti-SLAPP motion Monday, Nelson is enough of a public person that he must prove she “acted with actual malice,” meaning knowledge her statements were false.
“Ms. Bridgers has submitted a declaration affirming her subjective belief in the truth of her statements, so Mr. Nelson cannot meet his burden,” the motion states. “The court therefore should grant this special motion to strike.”
Nelson’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone on Monday.
Nelson previously sued Bannon for defamation in December 2020. In response filings, Bannon has stated she lived with Nelson during their year-long relationship and “began to see certain behaviors that disturbed me.” She said the behaviors caused her to end the relationship. Then, in mid-2020, she was “approached by or put in touch with a diverse range of individuals” who also knew Nelson, she claimed. “Several discussions involved Nelson’s abusive and/or criminal behavior and how similar it was from person to person,” she previously wrote in a sworn declaration.
Bannon said she posted her Instagram story “so that future customers of his would be on notice.”
In another lawsuit filed in December 2020, Nelson accused former Saturday Night Live actress and singer-songwriter Noël Wells of making “false, defamatory, and misleading” comments when she allegedly warned indie rock band Big Thief against working with him in July 2020.
A judge later tossed that case after Wells and her legal team argued she sent her cautionary email to Big Thief’s manager in a protected effort to “assist” the band with its right to hire — or not hire — anyone it chooses in the furtherance of its exercise of artistic free speech.