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Slavery Reparations Advocacy Group Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Harvard

Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, co-founders of the American Descendants of Slavery Movement, are suing Harvard for defamation.
Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, co-founders of the American Descendants of Slavery Movement, are suing Harvard for defamation. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Miles J. Herszenhorn, Crimson Staff Writer

The co-founders of the American Descendants of Slavery, a slavery reparations advocacy movement, filed a defamation lawsuit against Harvard University last month over a since-retracted research article that was published by a journal affiliated with the school.

The lawsuit stems from an article published in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review on Jan. 18, 2021, that claimed ADOS used Twitter to discourage Black voters from participating in the 2020 presidential election.

Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, the co-founders of the movement, claim in the lawsuit that they “suffered emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of his [sic] life, embarrassment, loss of reputation, and loss of earning capacity” as a result of the article’s publication.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the suit.

ADOS wrote in a June 2021 public rebuttal to the Misinformation Review’s article that it denies in the “strongest terms possible” the allegation that it manipulated Black voters into abstaining from the 2020 presidential election.

The journal, which is published by HKS’ Shorenstein Center, later retracted the article on Dec. 20, 2021.

In an editorial note accompanying the retraction, the Misinformation Review wrote that “certain of the principal conclusions reported in this paper cannot be considered reliable or valid.”

The ADOS rebuttal accused the Misinformation Review article of being part of a “smear campaign” by the progressive political action committee and advocacy group MoveOn, which employed five of the article’s 10 authors at the time of publication.

The ADOS Advocacy Foundation, which was founded by Carnell in 2021, announced its “unequivocal support for the founder, president, and CEO of our organization, Yvette Carnell, as well as for Antonio Moore, as they commence a civil action against Harvard University,” in a July 26 statement.

“We eagerly await a resolution that finds Harvard being held fully accountable for the consequences of its reckless scholarship,” the statement said.

MoveOn is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, alongside the Harvard Kennedy School, the Shorenstein Center, and the individual authors of the Misinformation Review article.

MoveOn did not respond to a request for comment. The authors of the Misinformation Review article could not be reached for comment.

Carnell and Moore allege in the lawsuit that HKS and the Misinformation Review “effectively used and weaponized the vague concept of misinformation” to damage their reputations and misinform the article’s readers.

“The Harvard Kennedy School ADOS Disinformation paper has caused immeasurable harm to the Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants Harvard Kennedy School ignored their error for nearly a full year.”

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

Correction: August 5, 2022

A previous version of this article identified Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore as the co-founders of the American Descendants of Slavery Advocacy Foundation. In fact, Carnell and Moore are the co-founders of the American Descendants of Slavery movement. Carnell founded the American Descendants of Slavery Advocacy Foundation in 2021.

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