Elections 2022O’Rourke Responds to Defamation Suit, Disputes Allegations

The gubernatorial candidate also called for a change of venue, questioning whether the plaintiff actually lives in San Saba County where the suit was filed.
March 22, 2022
Democratic candidate for governor, Beto O’Rourke, issued his official legal response to defamation allegations made by Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren — calling the charges errant.

Filed with the 424th District Court in San Saba County, O’Rourke’s petition disputes an earlier one made by Warren accusing the candidate of defamation for statements he’s made on the campaign trail. O’Rourke has accused Warren, specifically, and others more broadly, of extortion and bribery for his company making money during the 2021 blackouts when electricity and gas scarcity prices soared.

“[O’Rourke’s] allegedly defamatory statements, if any, were all substantially true, and consequently, are protected [by Texas common law],” his brief reads. It also states that Warren is a public figure, a category largely carved out of defamation by law.

In his initial filing, Warren attempted to preempt this argument, saying that he is a private citizen and that his public-facing life extends only so far as making campaign donations to candidates such as Governor Greg Abbott.

But right after O’Rourke says his statements are “substantially true,” he adds that the claims were all opinion. While not necessarily contradictory, O’Rourke has stated his claims emphatically as fact.

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Nonetheless, it is difficult to prove defamation in court, especially as Texas has an anti-SLAPP law — meant to prevent scurrilous lawsuits aimed at silencing speech.

O’Rourke also requested a change in venue. Warren filed the petition in San Saba County, population of under 6,000, where he says he resided when the statements were made, but O’Rourke’s response says the actual residence is in Dallas County — a much politically friendlier area of courts.

He filed nearly 50 pages of evidence purportedly showing Warren’s address in Dallas County to be his actual residence.

Warren is asking the court to order O’Rourke to retract his statements and slap him with damages of at least $1 million.

“[Warren] cannot prove he has suffered compensatory damages, actual damages, or special damages, or any other such damages as a result of any purportedly wrongful action,” O’Rourke’s response concludes.

Read O’Rourke’s response below.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.