As It Happens

'I want justice': Woman sues actor James Woods for tweet suggesting she gave Nazi salute

An Ohio activist is suing actor James Woods for $3 million dollars, after he posted a tweet misidentifying her as a woman who gave a Nazi salute at a Trump rally.
Portia Boulger, seen here protesting a Republican union reform bill in March 2011, was misidentified online as the woman who gave the Nazi salute at a Donald Trump rally. (Mike Munden/Getty Images)

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Ever since actor James Wood tweeted that Portia Boulger might be the woman seen giving a Nazi salute at a Donald Trump rally, the Ohio activist says she has faced an onslaught of online harassment, strange anonymous phone calls and even death threats.

"I got horrible, horrible, nasty comments. They called me most worst of worst names," Boulger, who has launched a $3-million defamation suit against the Casino star, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"They threatened. They said they hoped that I got raped by those liberals that go to the rallies and die of AIDs. They hoped that my children died of AIDS, that my grandchildren died of AIDs. One of the messages said something to the effect of, 'I'm gonna buy a gun and come hunting for you.' I've been getting hang-up calls since that happened."

Those messages started pouring in in March 2016, she said, when Woods tweeted an image of Boulger's face and name with the words: "So called #Trump 'Nazi' is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?"

James Wood eventually deleted this tweet, but Portia Boulger's lawsuit says he left it up far too long.

He was referring to a viral image a woman giving the Nazi salute at a Trump rally in Chicago.

Woods has responded to Boulger's suit through his lawyer, denying he defamed her.

The woman giving the Nazi salute was later identified as Birgitt Peterson, a German-born Trump supporter who told the New York Times the gesture was meant to make a point to anti-Trump protesters equating the then-presidential candidate with Hitler.

"They said Trump is a second Hitler," Peterson told the Times. "I said, 'Do you know what that sign stands for? Do you know who Hitler really was?'"

Boulger, an activist from Chilcothe, Ohio, was volunteering for the presidential campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders at the time. 

Portia Boulger, left, was working for the presidential campaign of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, right, when she was falsely accused of giving the Nazi salute at a Donald Trump rally. (Portia Boulger)

A number of Trump supporters, including Woods and Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that Boulger was the woman in the photo and that she'd been sent by the Sanders campaign to sabotage Trump. 

The president has never commented about Boulger's case, but he has repeatedly asserted, without evidence, that those who behave badly at his rallies are actually paid Democratic saboteurs. 

Actor James Woods tweeted 'So called #Trump "Nazi" is a #BernieSanders agitator/supporter?' (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Facing onslaught of harassment, Boulger hired a lawyer, who sent letters to Woods and Trump Jr., asking them to delete their tweets about Boulger and issue apologies.

"It scares me. I'm standing up, I'm fighting back, but I don't want to lead people to think that this isn't scary stuff because it's very scary," she said. "These people were very powerful people."

Trump Jr. acquiesced, but Boulger's lawsuit alleges that Woods at first refused, then waited at least 10 days before finally deleting the offending tweet.

Woods then issued a trio of new tweets correcting the mistake. In one of them, he misspells Boulger's name. 

"But he did not apologize and it's been a year now and he still hasn't apologized," Boulger said. 

Boulger calls Wood's suggestion she asked him to use his following to end her harassment a "bold-faced lie.

"I am a survivor. I am not a victim. And survivors do not reach out to their oppressors and ask them for help. It is extremely misogynistic," Boulger said. 

Woods' lawyer, Michael E. Weinsten of Lavely & Singer, told As It Happens the lawsuit is "patently bogus."

"In response to a rumor circulating on the Internet about Ms. Boulger's alleged affiliation with a Trump rally, Mr. Woods tweeted a question seeking clarification. On its face, that is not defamation," the attorney said.

"In fact, Mr. Woods went out of his way to defend Ms. Boulger against alleged harassment. This case proves the adage 'no good deed goes unpunished.'"

Boulger, however, insists: "It was not a good deed.

"I want Mr. Woods to understand the full power of the law in my country, that he cannot come after common citizens or anybody and get away with it," she said. "I want justice."