A New Jersey man facing a $5 million defamation lawsuit filed by Bill O'Reilly said he will continue to speak out against the former Fox News host — and he's asking millions of others to join his cause, RadarOnline.com can reveal.
In an exclusive interview, Michael Panter said he started a GoFundMe campaign called "Stand Up To Bill O'Reilly" to raise money for organizations that support sexual assault victims.
O'Reilly slapped Panter with a summons on Oct. 27, accusing the small businessman of “intentional, malicious, and bad faith actions in making defamatory and false statement in a publicly-available social media post."
In the two-page court summons, filed in Nassau County, O'Reilly's attorneys said the former Fox host is seeking no less than $5 million in damages "for the public hatred, ridicule, disgrace and permanent harm to his professional and personal reputations," which O’Reilly insisted were made with "actual malice."
On his October 24 Facebook post, Panter wrote his former girlfriend's career was "largely dependent on staying in O'Reilly's good graces" and for that reason she was hesitant to tell him details, "likely out of fear that I could jeopardize her career by becoming involved."
Panter, who owns a property inspection business and manages a small charitable foundation, said O'Reilly continuously called and harassed his ex around early 2011. The New Jersey man also claimed O'Reilly tried to use his former girlfriend to obtain incriminating information about another woman who also had filed harassment claims against the former Factor host.
Panter said his then-girlfriend could not come out with details of her experience because she had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
"I heard Bill O'Reilly make public statements that I thought were disingenuous when he said very few women had complained about him," Panter said in the interview with Radar. "I experienced Fox News as an institution that intimidated and silenced women who came forward with accusations, so I felt that I needed to speak up. I didn't do it for personal publicity or gain. I posted it with an audience of a few hundred friends on Facebook ... and it didn't really become a story until Bill O'Reilly decided to sue me."
Panter, who served in the New Jersey Assembly from 2004 to 2008, said he isn't backing down and has even hired attorney Lisa Bloom to represent him on the impending defamation case.
In an interview with Radar, Bloom called O'Reilly a "bully" who used his $85 million-net worth to intimidate his victims.
"We all know that in our court system, the rich and powerful have advantage over the little guy," Bloom said. "It’s not right, but it’s the reality. A lot of celebrities spoke out against Bill O’Reilly, but he didn’t sue any of those people.”
“I think he believed Michael Panter would immediately capitulate, would run into a corner, and apologize and beg him to drop the case,” Bloom continued. “In fact, it is the opposite. Michael Panter wanted to stand up for women and there is a very important principle involved here."
Bloom revealed O'Reilly, 68, has 120 days to serve Panter with the summons and that the former Fox host also would have to file a formal complaint that outlines his claims and show Panter intentionally lied about him.
"We are going to very aggressively defend the case, so stay tuned," Bloom said. "It’s about standing up to a bully and we hope other people will join us in this cause. If this happens to other people, we also would like to join them. Bill O’Reilly maybe a rich and powerful guy, but I don’t think he could beat millions of people who want to unite in our cause against him. That’s what we are hoping for."
Panter said he hopes his GoFundMe campaign against the former Fox host will send a message not only to alleged abusers like O'Reilly, but for victims to know that they are not alone. So far, his Stand Up To Bill page has raised over $12,000 as of Tuesday.
"Admittedly, my heart sank when I found out that someone who has such a powerful platform targeted me," Panter told Radar.
"It does take a toll because I have a small business to run, and I have a family. It has been very difficult, but if it wasn't for this broader principal that we are standing up for, I think it would be much easier to fold my cards, even though I was speaking truthfully."
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