Letter of Demand for Retraction and Apology to MSNBC and Joy Reid and Chris Hayes (also includes Tim Wise)

Notice to Cease and Desist and Notice of Demand for Retraction and Apology

May 13, 2019

Attorney Kimberley D. Harris, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation, and General Counsel

NBCUniversal

30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY 10112

Re:  Defamation of Character of Sarah Braasch on MSNBC

Attorney Harris:

First and foremost, as I made clear in my prior letter regarding NBC News, this letter serves as notice that the video recording made of me on May 8th, 2018, in my Yale University dormitory, the Hall of Graduate Studies, was made illegally, under Connecticut State Law, and the distribution of this video recording, either the audio or the video therefrom, or any part thereof, is illegal under Connecticut State Law, including under CT General Statutes, Chapter 952, Section 53A, Provisions 189 a and b.  I intend to pursue prosecution for the illegal distribution of this video recording to the full extent of the law.  The distribution of this illegal video recording is a felony under CT State Law, with a statute of limitations of 5 years.  I demand that you remove this video wherever it may have been posted by any agent of Comcast Corporation.  I demand that you remove any links to this video wherever these links may have been posted by any agent of Comcast Corporation.  

Attorney Sternlicht’s claims in his response letter dated May 7, 2019, that NBCUniversal’s distribution of this illegal video recording is not illegal are false.  Attorney Sternlicht claims that Connecticut is a one party state, which is false, but even if that were the case, it remains true that I had more than a reasonable expectation of privacy standing in the doorway of my dorm room on Yale’s campus at 2 am, and it remains true that the video recording of me from May 8th, 2018, is illegal under CT State Law, as I mentioned in my initial letter.  Once you have been made aware that the video recording is illegal, you are aware that you are illegally distributing an illegal video recording, and NBCUniversal has been made aware that the video recording is illegal.  And, Attorney Sternlicht’s claims that I consented to being both recorded and filmed are patently ridiculous.  I did not consent either to being filmed or recorded just because my attacker, Lolade Siyonbola, held up her cell phone, nor did I consent to being either filmed or recorded because my attacker told me she was placing the video recording on Facebook Live at the very end of the recording.  I did not hear her say this at the time, and even if I could have consented retroactively, I clearly did not, because, as Attorney Sternlicht notes, I was very clearly objecting to having my photo taken, which also makes clear that I was not aware, nor did I consent to being recorded or filmed.  Moreover, that Attorney Sternlicht would attempt to describe an illegal online campaign to publicly shame an older, disabled woman for her mental health disability by violating her privacy rights as a matter of public interest, justifying NBCUniversal’s illegal distribution of this video, is both asinine and reprehensible.  Moreover, Attorney Sternlicht’s claim that Staff Writer Erik Ortiz linking me to a police shooting of an unarmed black woman near Yale University is not defamatory and did not endanger my life and destroy my career and reputation and livelihood is, frankly, shocking.  

This letter serves as a demand that all Comcast Corporation agents cease and desist their grossly false and defamatory statements about me, Sarah Braasch, immediately.  This letter also serves as a demand that all Comcast Corporation agents who have made such grossly false and defamatory statements about me, including, but not limited to, MSNBC, Joy Reid, and Chris Hayes, immediately and publicly retract those statements and immediately and publicly apologize to me, Sarah Braasch, for having made those grossly false and defamatory statements.  

These grossly false and defamatory statements include, but are not limited to, the following:

MSNBC has produced a video, which grossly defames me as guilty of racial harassment.  This video is available on MSNBC’s website and their YouTube Channel, and has been widely viewed and distributed online.  On May 29th, 2018, while I was in hiding to save my own life, after I had to flee Yale’s campus while being taunted by a mob, and while I was receiving thousands upon thousands of death threats and threats of violence, including sexual violence, and while I was curled up in the fetal position in a state of literal physical shock, convulsing with the chills, terrified to leave my room, knowing that my life and career had been wrongfully destroyed, MSNBC aired a Town Hall called “Everyday Racism in America.”  During this defamatory broadcast, Joy Reid and Chris Hayes made grossly false and defamatory statements about me and what happened during the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale that can only be construed as an attempt to destroy my life and career as a human and civil rights licensed attorney activist and to bring about the death of an innocent civil rights activist and older disabled woman by either driving me to suicide or inciting my murder.  

Joy Reid and Chris Hayes concocted a grotesque fairy tale about what occurred, and what I had done, and what my motivations were, and who I am.

Chris Hayes begins by telling a straight up bald faced lie and trying to make it seem like I just happened to come across a random sleeping black person in the huge, ground floor common room of my Yale dorm in the middle of the night, instead of what actually happened, which was that the person who had been terrorizing me that evening and for months in my isolated dorm room was camped out immediately outside of my isolated dorm room, in the small, little used room next door, the only other room on that floor, at the top of a tower.  

Chris Hayes described the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax, of which I was the victim, as a trauma that I inflicted on my attacker, and he said that I othered her. 

I was the person who was being terrorized in my isolated dorm room that evening and for months.  I was the person who was being targeted for my sex, disability, age, and race.  I was the person who was traumatized.  I was the person who was being othered.  I was the person being policed.  I was the person being excluded from her own campus, from her own home.  

Chris Hayes actually asked my attacker what it was like to spend time in the common room of my Yale dorm after the video had gone viral, meaning the huge, ground floor common room of my Yale dorm.  This is a preposterous and gross and willful mischaracterization of the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale.  

Joy Reid asked my attacker, Lolade Siyonbola, if she had seen me on campus since May 8th, 2018, and what had occurred if she had.  Well, she wouldn’t have seen me on campus, because I had to immediately go into hiding for my personal safety.  I had to move into a part of the dorm that was under construction, where I wouldn’t be attacked.  I had to flee Yale’s campus for my personal safety, and I feared for my life while I was being taunted by a mob, while I was waiting, desperately, for my Uber.  

Joy Reid said that it feels like we’re back in the fight over whether black people are going to have access to public spaces, and she was referring specifically to me when she said this.  One of the key points of my legal and human and civil rights advocacy for years has been the desegregation of the public space.  This information is widely and readily available online, including in my bio on Yale’s Philosophy Department website.  In fact, my focus on the desegregation of the public space is why I chose to go work as a Human Rights Fellow at Ni Putes Ni Soumises in France, a women’s rights organization comprised primarily of women from the predominantly Muslim and North and Sub-Saharan African immigrant communities surrounding the major cities of France, for whom desegregation of the public space is a pillar of their movement.  This is information that is widely and readily available online, including in my bio on Yale’s Philosophy Department website.  Why didn’t I have the right to feel safe and to be free from harassment, stalking, and attacks in my own home, my isolated dorm room, and as I walked across campus?  

Of course, the entire panel and its assorted guests, a panel on Everyday Racism in America, in which I was included as an example of a racist who tries to get black and brown people killed by weaponizing the police, made grossly false and defamatory statement after statement about how what I did was racist, and how I was suspicious of my attacker, because of the color of her skin, and how I was trying to weaponize the police against black and brown people, and how I was trying to exclude black and brown people from my white space, and how I thought I had the authority to police my white space.  It was, frankly, grotesque.  It was a grotesque fairy tale concocted to endanger my life and destroy my lifelong career as an innocent human and civil rights licensed attorney activist.  

Tim Wise, the author of White Like Me:  Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son, said that I called the Yale campus police on my attacker, Lolade Siyonbola, with the knowledge of Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of the police, and he made the following, absolutely obscene statement about what I was thinking during the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale:

“My discomfort with you right now is worth more than the potential that your life could be snuffed in ten minutes.  Until that stops, nothing is going to change.”

I was literally in a state of shock, listening to this grotesque lie about me, about who I am, about what happened during the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale, about what I did, and about what my motivations were, while Joy Reid and Chris Hayes and the other panelists clapped and nodded in agreement. 

When Tim Wise says something like this about me on MSNBC, this can only be construed as an attempt to endanger my life and destroy my career and reputation and livelihood.  He is trying to get me killed by saying that I was trying to kill a black person by weaponizing the police, which is the most grotesque and disgusting lie imaginable.  

Then, Chris Hayes concocted a grotesque fairy tale immediately thereafter about what happened during the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale.  Chris Hayes explicitly states that I called 911, which is a bald faced lie.  Chris Hayes explicitly states that I never tried to speak to my attacker, Lolade Siyonbola, before calling the Yale campus police, which is a bald faced lie.  Chris Hayes explicitly states that I was so uncomfortable with my attacker, because of the color of her skin, that I didn’t even bother to try to speak to her before dialing 911, which is a straight up, bald faced lie.  

Joy Reid explicitly states that what I did was a nuisance call, and that there should be legal repercussions for what I did.  Then the panel discussed how much of this is the result of gentrification and white people moving into black communities.  I grew up among black and brown people in a racially integrated religious cult, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the notion that I would regard a black or brown person as suspicious, because of the color of their skin is so ludicrous and asinine that it is too preposterous to be considered.  This is information that is widely and readily available online.  The panel also spoke about how all of these racist 911 callers who are trying to get black and brown people killed by weaponizing the police are motivated by Trump and Trump’s rhetoric, and how Trump unleashed our racism and empowered us to be racist.  I have only ever voted Democratic my entire adult life, and I was a vociferous anti-Trump advocate during the last presidential election. Again, this is information that is widely and readily available online.  

These are straight up, bald faced lies, on the part of Joy Reid, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC, meant to destroy my life, my career as a lifelong human and civil rights licensed attorney activist, and ruin my reputation and livelihood, with reckless disregard for the truth, lies which almost drove me to suicide and incited my murder.  

Moreover, the illegal video of me from May 8th, 2018, was made of me, illegally, and widely distributed online, illegally, for the purpose of shaming me for my disability, my mental health disability, including by MSNBC.  The fact that I was targeted for my mental health disability is made abundantly clear in the video itself, when my attacker repeatedly calls me psychotic and says that I should be put in a mental institution.  She also explicitly states that it was Yale who illegally fed her my personal information, including my mental health history, when she says that Yale knows that I’m crazy and that I should be institutionalized.  That MSNBC would participate in the cable news broadcast and online public shaming of a middle aged, disabled woman, who was made a target, because of her mental health disability, is reprehensible.  The most defamatory and disgusting thing that MSNBC did in producing this broadcast meant to destroy my life, a broadcast which almost drove me to suicide and incited my murder, was to purposely and purposefully omit those portions of the video that make it clear that my attacker was targeting me for my mental health disability, as well as those portions of the video where my attacker stigmatizes mental illness and makes clear that Yale was illegally feeding her my personal information, in gross violation of my privacy, including my mental health history.  

These are straight-up, bald-faced lies, on the part of Comcast Corporation, including MSNBC, Joy Reid, and Chris Hayes, meant to destroy my life, my career as a lifelong human and civil rights licensed attorney activist, and ruin my reputation and livelihood, with reckless disregard for the truth, lies which almost drove me to suicide and incited my murder.  Joy Reid and Chris Hayes lied on MSNBC about me.  They didn’t even try to find out the truth of what happened. They did not meet the bare minimum requirement with respect to their ethical and journalistic obligations to report the truth before they endangered and destroyed my life by telling lies about me on MSNBC, broadcast to the entire world.  

The damage to my life, reputation, livelihood, good name, and career are incalculable.  I was forced to flee my dorm room and then campus. I was suicidal for near a year and forced into hiding for my personal safety.  I continue to be defamed as a racist, including recently, by Erik Ortiz and NBC News.  I can’t even begin to count the death threats and threats of violence that I have received. I can’t even begin to count the number of instances of defamation as guilty of racial harassment that I have endured in the national and international news media, as well as on social media, including on MSNBC and including by Joy Reid and Chris Hayes.  My academic and legal and human and civil rights careers are over.  I will never be able to secure gainful employment.  I will no longer be able to support myself.  

I had been a lifelong human and civil rights licensed attorney activist who had devoted her life to undermining oppression in all of its many forms, including racism.  No one who has ever known me has ever heard or seen me say or do anything racist ever.  Everything that I had wished for my life is no longer possible. Everything that I had strived for my entire life has been destroyed, it has been stripped from me through no fault of my own.  

As a result, I immediately demand the following: 

  1. Comcast Corporation will remove the illegal video recording of me and any part thereof, wherever it exists, including all links thereto;  
  2. Comcast Corporation will retract and remove all grossly false and defamatory statements about me, wherever they exist, including all links thereto;
  3. Comcast Corporation will produce a statement, including an apology to me, and Comcast Corporation will explain the gross illegality of all other grossly false and defamatory statements about me, as well as their grossly false and defamatory character; this new statement will take the place of the former grossly false and defamatory statements, wherever they exist, including all links thereto;
  4. Comcast Corporation will issue a public apology to me for concluding that I acted with any racial animus or bias in connection with this incident, and stating that all the evidence known to Comcast Corporation suggests otherwise, and this public apology will be read on air on any broadcast that had previously aired grossly false and defamatory statements about me, including on MSNBC, and including by Joy Reid and Chris Hayes; and 
  5. Comcast Corporation will publicly announce that I have been publicly misrepresented as engaging in discriminatory misconduct, and this public announcement will be read on air on any broadcast that had previously aired grossly false and defamatory statements about me, including on MSNBC, and including by Joy Reid and Chris Hayes.  Indeed, my work at Yale and beyond evidence that I harbor no racial animus whatsoever.  To the contrary, I have dedicated myself to causes of social justice including the cause of eradicating all forms of discrimination. 

I expect a response from you in short order.

Sincerely, 

Sarah Braasch

cc:  Attorney David Sternlicht, Senior Vice President, NBCUniversal News Group, Legal

If you wish to support me, as I seek justice, it would mean the world to me. Here are my PayPalMe and GoFundMe links. 

PayPalMe:  https://www.paypal.me/SarahBraasch

GoFundMe:  https://www.gofundme.com/sarah-braasch-legal-fund

You can follow me on twitter here:  https://twitter.com/sarahbraasch1?lang=en

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