BYU professor Benjamin Abbott hosted a press conference Feb 1. at the Lindon Marina boat dock in response to being named in a defamation lawsuit.
Abbott and his legal team addressed the public just hours after they filed an anti-SLAPP statement and counterclaim regarding the suit filed by Lake Restoration Solutions on Jan. 10.
The suit says in his criticism of the Utah Lake Restoration Project, Abbott knowingly made false claims to sway public opinion. Lake Restoration Solutions is seeking at least $3 million in damages.
Whitney Hulet Krogue, one of Abbott’s attorneys, spoke first during the press conference.
“Professor Abbott was speaking in good faith on a matter of public concern,” Krogue said. “Under our Constitution, and the constitutional guarantees of both the United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution, what Professor Abbott said is fully protected whether he was right or wrong.”
Krogue said she is concerned about the precedent this case might set when it comes to freedom of speech.
“If we are to preserve the public’s right and the public’s courage to speak out on public issues, we cannot let (Lake Restoration Solutions) weaponize the judicial system to silence or even discourage critics,” Krogue said.
Abbott acknowledged that everyone may not agree with his conclusions about Utah Lake, but said he hopes people can be unified in the commitment to free speech and accountability.
“What we need right now isn’t islands or a bigger shovel as proposed by the new Utah Lake Authority,” Abbott said. “What we need is cool heads and leaders with vision and moral courage who can help our valley fulfill our sacred stewardship of this lake.”
Individuals gathered to listen to BYU professor Ben Abbott’s press conference about the defamation suit he was named in for speaking against Lake Restoration Solutions’ Utah Lake Restoration Project. (Decker Westenburg)