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Casey Askar sues Byron Donalds for defamation during Republican primary

A controversial campaign text message is at the center of a lawsuit. The text claimed Republican Byron Donalds, who won the race for Florida House District 19, had dropped out of the race for U.S. Congress. The text went out two hours after the polls opened for the primaries this year.

At the time, Donalds publicly blamed his opponent, Republican Casey Askar. Now, Askar is suing the Donalds for defamation.

Askar told us he believes the text message and Donalds’ holding him responsible for it cost him the primary.

Donalds responded and said, if anyone has grounds for a lawsuit, it’s him due to all of the false advertisement directed at him.

The lawsuit claims either Byron Donalds came up with the plan to send out the fake text messages himself, or he knew about it and went along with it.

Askar’s lawsuit also claims Donalds’ goal was, “to further smear Askar and cause much needed voters on Election Day to resent Askar and vote for Bryon Donalds.”

“They believed that false accusation, and that’s tampering with our democracy, with our electoral process, and that’s criminal,” Askar said.

Askar told us that false claim did more than just cost him the election.

“I do hope that this lawsuit will clear my name,” Askar said.

“He knew and I knew that we were the campaign that was on the rise, the campaign that obviously won,” Donalds said. “That’s why I’m here in Washington for member orientation.”

The Askar lawsuit compares Donalds to Jusse Smollette, the actor who many believe faked an attack to further his career.

“I’m not even going to respond to that one,” Donalds said. “I think it’s dumb. I think this whole thing is dumb.”

Attorney Karen Kammer represents Wink News, and she’s an expert of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Her reaction to the lawsuit is blunt.

“It’s almost impossible because political speech in our system is given the highest protection,” Kammer said. “It’s very difficult to prove that not only the statements that are made about them false but also that they caused any damages because other things could have influenced the outcome of an election.”

Kammer told us Donalds has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, and he can ask the judge to dismiss it outright.

Askar is asking for $30,000 in damages. Donalds says the FBI is investigating this case as well, but no one with the bureau will talk about it.

“This is who I am. I’m a fighter, and I’ll always continue to fight,” Askar said.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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