Casino mogul and American Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson on Wednesday filed a $60 million suit in Manhattan against the National Jewish Democratic Council, accusing the group of "publishing false and defamatory accusations" about him.
The suit focuses on an article published by the NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris on July 3, which refers to claims by a former employee that Adelson "personally approved" of prostitution in his casinos in Macau.
The NJDC also launched an online petition calling on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to reject Adelson's "tainted money."
Following criticism by various Jewish organizations in the U.S., the NJDC withdrew the petition, noting its willingness to preserve harmonious relations with other Jewish groups. It noted, however, that it stood by its previous statements, and expressed concern regarding the sources of Adelson's wealth.
The lawsuit claims that as a result of the NJDC's actions, "Mr. Adelson suffered public hatred, contempt, scorn and ridicule," and that the allegations against him were used to "distort and chill the political process" with regard to his contributions.
It calls Steven Jacobs, the former employee who made the claims regarding prostitution in Adelson's casinos, "an unreliable, biased witness with his own personal agenda." Jones was laid off by the casino in 2010.
The lawsuit also mentions Adelson's philanthropic endeavors, including drug addiction treatment clinics. In it, Adelson demands retraction of the publications, compensation to the tune of at least $10 million and $50 million in punitive funds.
The National Jewish Democratic Council said in response: "We will not be bullied into submission, and we will not be silenced by power. This is not Putin's Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this."
"To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures -- as we did -- is wholly appropriate. Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors."
The group added that it believed it was well within its rights and said it would defend itself against the charges in court.
Sheldon Adelson and his wife have been heavily involved in the 2012 U.S. presidential race, donating millions to the campaigns of Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and, later, Mitt Romney.
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