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Eric Metaxas said Vetting Guests not His Job in Defamation Lawsuit Testimony

Last week, Eric Metaxas spoke about how “Christians Need to Reclaim Truth for God’s Kingdom” on prosperity gospel preacher Andrew Wommack’s  podcast for his Truth & Liberty Coalition.

Eric Metaxas speaks during his show May 26, 2020. Video screenshot

But six months earlier, Metaxas said in a deposition that he did little to confirm the truth of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud made by Joe Oltmann on Metaxas’ radio program.  

Oltman, a Colorado political activist, had become a sensation following his Nov. 9, 2020, Conservative Daily podcast that spread stories about election fraud. He claimed he had listened in on an Antifa conference call, and that a Dominion Voting Systems employee said the company had worked to ensure Donald Trump was not re-elected.

Days later, Oltmann was sharing his stories with Eric Metaxas of the Eric Metaxas Show.  It was broadcast nationwide on his Salem Media Group program, the Eric Metaxas Show. 

Now Metaxas and other conservative Christian media figures are being probed about their practices in a defamation lawsuit filed by Eric Coomer, an executive with Dominion Voting Systems.

In a deposition for the case, Metaxas said he had done little to verify claims aired in the broadcast that Dominion had rigged elections in the U.S., Mongolia, and Venezuela. 

“I’m kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants guy,” he said in the deposition. “We don’t have the budget, bandwidth or time to do anything like that. I don’t see that as my job.”

“I am usually taking my guest at their word,” he testified. “I’m not an adversarial interviewer, and he didn’t give me any reason to believe that he’s blowing smoke. If I ever thought anyone were blowing smoke, especially on an issue this important, I think I would ask them some hard questions.”

Joe Oltmann told Metaxas: “We infiltrated their meetings, we infiltrated their conference calls, we got information about what they were planning to do next.” 

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Oltmann, founder of FEC United (which stands for faith, education and commerce), later said the man who rigged the election was Eric Coomer, an executive with Dominion, a company he claimed had previously rigged elections in Mongolia and Venezuela. “We were dealing with a person that could put his finger firmly on the American voice and tip the scale of the election very easily.”

Metaxas never asked for any evidence or verification, and instead praised his guest: “You infiltrated Antifa meetings which is utterly heroic and fascinating and wonderful and thrilling and inspirational to everybody listening, frankly.”

Oltmann also told tall tales on shows hosted by other conservative Christian media figures, including Michelle Malkin of Newsmax and Chanel Rion of One America News. The breaking news was so hot that none of them appeared to check it out.

Soon, Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell picked up the claims. With dark hair dye running down his sweaty cheeks, Giuliani accused Coomer of rigging the election.

In December of 2020, Malkin, Metaxas, Rion, and others were sued for defamation. The suit describes “a dangerous trend among unscrupulous media publishers of printing or broadcasting salacious content, while attempting to disclaim responsibility for the accuracy of that content.” The suit claims defendants “simply did not concern themselves at any level with the credibility of who or what they were relying upon as part of their publications or the accuracy of what they were reporting.”

No efforts made to verify incredible claims

Dominion Voting Systems has sued Fox News for $1.6 billion.  Dominion executive Eric Coomer filed the defamation suit against others including Oltmann and Metaxas.

Coomer’s attorneys repeatedly asked Metaxas if he did anything to verify Oltmann’s claims, and Metaxas repeatedly said no, that’s not his job.

Q: Okay. In preparing to do a show, do you—do you or your team perform some sort of investigation?

A: Unfortunately, no, we don’t…usually, it’s like, that seems interesting. That book seems
interesting.

Q: Did your staff do any investigation of Mr. Oltmann?

A: No. We—we really don’t do that. We kind of just, as I said, shoot—kind of shoot from the hip. If it sounds interesting or good, I—I’m really not looking for controversy, but it just sounded newsy and interesting.

Q: Did you find him to be credible?

A: Oh, yeah, I did. I did. And of course, that’s important to me. If I had a guest on that didn’t seem credible to me, on behalf of my audience, I would ask them some tough questions, like wait a minute, you know, that doesn’t sound right. Or why are you saying that. So yeah, that’s important to me.

Q: Before you went on air, did you do some sort of interview with him.

A: We don’t do that. It’s just not—it’s usually not necessary. I just want to kind of have a free flowing conversation, and I want the guest to kind of tell my audience the story.

Q: Did you reach out to Eric Coomer to verify Mr. Oltmann’s story?

A: No. We—we don’t—we just don’t have the bandwidth to do anything even approaching that kind of corroboration, I guess, would be the word. 

Q: Do you know if any of your staff reviewed his social media?

A: I can say pretty confidently that they probably didn’t.

Q: So would it—would it be fair to say that when Mr. Oltmann came on your show, you had very little knowledge of him?

A: Yeah.

In other testimony, Metaxas said, “I’m not playing the role of a journalist.”

Metaxas may have trusted Oltman because he learned of Oltmann from his friend and “dear soul” Kurt Nelson, who works with a missionary group in Texas. Donald “Kurt” Nelson is president and CEO of East-West, a $20-million mission agency in Plano. An online photo shows Metaxas after speaking at East-West’s 25th anniversary banquet.

MinistryWatch reached out to Nelson at East-West, but the ministry did not respond. 

Metaxas calls Coomer “evil,” “criminal,” and “insane”

Oltmann’s claims filled Metaxas’s Nov. 2020 broadcast, “How A Security Genius at Dominion Voting Promised Antifa Members a Trump Loss.” Metaxas himself compared Coomer, who has a Ph.D., with the Unabomber, saying “when you’re smart enough to get a Ph.D. in nuclear physics it, you know, reminds me of the Unabomber…they’ll flirt with insanity and violence and it sounds like you’re dealing with somebody who at least begins to fall into that category.”

Metaxas also claimed Coomer was a globalist and Marxist—and that Coomer, or his acts, were evil:

These are people working on the side of evil. Let’s cut to the chase. This is satanic evil. Anybody who wants to cheat and lie, we know that’s wrong, but when you cheat and lie as a way to shut down the voice of American voters, that rises to a whole new level because this country has been the shining torch of freedom for the whole world.

Coomer’s attorney asked Metaxas, “Did you intend for your listeners to believe that Dr. Coomer was evil?”

A: I don’t think any human being is evil. And actually, if anyone ever says that a human being is evil, and this has happened on my program, I will stop them and clarify that everybody is made in God’s image and no person is inherently evil. So when I use the term “evil,” I’m talking about actions.

Q: So did you intend for your listeners to understand that actions taken by Dr. Coomer were evil?

A: Well, again, I’m going with what my guest is saying, and I don’t have any reason to think he’s making it up.

On his show Metaxas also said Coomer’s behavior was “extremely criminal, and these folks know they’re going to go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

Metaxas: “I like what I’m hearing.”

During his Nov. 2020 show, Metaxas told Oltmann that news about rigged elections was scary. “I mean, it’s scary even just having this conversation with you thinking about this and if I didn’t have a strong faith, I really would be scared but I’m not.”

Oltmann isn’t scared either, in part because his group FEC United operates a militia—another fact Metaxas admits he didn’t know before the show. The two discussed violence in one brief exchange:

Oltmann: I’m also not a fearful person. I believe that God will protect me and what God can’t protect on one side, I believe in the Second Amendment, so I’ll protect the other side. So —

Metaxas: Yeah. You think birdshot will cover it or do you have more — bigger weapons?

Oltmann: Among other things I own quite a few companies and one of them is the Gun Store and Range, so I think I’m pretty well protected.

Metaxas: I like what I’m hearing. I like what I’m hearing.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.

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