Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, is being sued for libel and slander by her Republican opponent in the 43rd Congressional District, who alleges the incumbent’s campaign material and radio commercials falsely stated that the Navy veteran was dishonorably discharged.
Joe E. Collins III’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants the 82-year-old lawmaker, her campaign committee, Citizens for Waters, and unspecified “Does” who may be named later. The complaint filed Wednesday seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A representative for Waters did not immediately reply to a message left at her Washington, D.C., office.
Collins served honorably for 13 1/2 years in the Navy, receiving decorations and commendations, according to his court papers.
“Collins separated from service with the United States Navy as a decorated veteran upon a general discharge under honorable conditions,” according to the suit, which says he left the military so he could run for office, which he could not do while on active duty.
On Sept. 17, in advance of the Nov. 3, election, Waters and the other defendants published a two-sided piece of campaign literature with an “unflattering” photo of Collins that stated, “Republican candidate Joe Collins was dishonorably discharged, played politics and sued the U.S. military. He doesn’t deserve military dog tags or your support,” the suit states.
The reverse side of the ad has a favorable photo of Waters and text complimenting her for her record with veterans, the suit says.
Collins met in 2018 with Waters’ staff and provided direct information about his discharge status, according to the suit, which says she “knew or should have known that Collins was not dishonorably discharged and the accusation was made with actual malice.”
The suit further states that since Sept. 17, a Waters radio campaign ad includes the congresswoman stating, “Joe Collins was kicked out of the Navy and was given a dishonorable discharge. Oh yes, he was thrown out of the Navy with a dishonorable discharge. Joe Collins is not fit for office and does not deserve to be elected to public office. Please vote for me. You know me.”
Waters also states in the radio ad that Collins’ health benefits were paid for by the Navy, which would not be possible if he had been dishonorably discharged, according to the plaintiff.
“The words uttered were a false statement because Collins was discharged from the United States Navy by a general discharge under honorable conditions and not by dishonorable discharge,” the suit says.