Calling someone gay isn’t necessarily defamatory–but claiming a nonexistent relationship with another man may cost you dearly, especially if the other man is a major public figure.
Anthony Caldwell, the man whose “religious deliverance” from homosexuality went viral in 2015, has learned this painful lesson in a DeKalb County, Georgia, courtroom earlier this week. Kordell Stewart, 45, a “Real Housewives Of Atlanta” and former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers star, sued Caldwell in October 2015, charging that Caldwell’s claims of a same-sex relationship with the reality TV personality had “caused [Stewart] significant loss of earnings and damage to his reputation”.
The litigation asserted that Stewart has been “100% heterosexual male at all times in his adult life”, and demanded $4.5 million in damages.
“I got everything that Porsha (Williams) got,” Caldwell said on the ShakeUP Morning Show in 2016. “I got bags, purses, cars. I’m in a Jaguar right now. Honey, did you see that Jaguar over there?”
Although Stewart has fought rumors of his alleged homosexuality for two decades, he was steadfast in his claim that Caldwell’s allegations were “specifically intended to damage [my] marriage”, according to court documents. Stewart also says his son Syre, has been the target of bullying related to Caldwell’s public statements.
Caldwell, 38, gained widespread Internet notoriety after a video of his “conversion” to heterosexuality by a Georgia megachurch surfaced on YouTube. In the footage, Caldwell happily declares, “:I’m not gay no more, I’ve been delivered [sic}! I like women, women, women!”
Caldwell later refuted the video, saying he was still gay, despite his public statements to the contrary. Caldwell alluded to multiple “affairs with men”, which allowed him to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, saying, “I don’t need any more money”.
Caldwell could soon find his wallet lighter, however, as the judge found the viral sensation in default for failure to appear in November. The court awarded Stewart summary damages of $1,5 million and another $1.5 million in punitive damages.
Although Caldwell eventually retracted his claims about Stewart, that clarification came too late to prevent the judgment against him. He has since reversed himself again, insisting the alleged relationship between him and Stewart actually happened.
Caldwell’s managers rebutted this verdict, saying their client had “not been served with any documents,” and “[Caldwell] will aggressively defend himself in a court proceeding” appealing the verdict.