The Hirsh Singh campaign said Rik Mehta was a lot of things during last year’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Mehta says he was called a “baby killer.” a racist, a man infected with COVID and, perish the thought, even a Democrat.
That campaign ended more than six months ago, but Mehta has not forgotten.
He is suing Singh for defamation, claiming that he (Mehta) was the victim of a smear campaign of repeated lies, false allegations and a fictional narrative.
Singh is on record as saying he will not comment on advice of his attorney.
Let’s unpack a few things.
In general, political campaigns are the forum for all sorts of crazy allegations – think Ted Cruz’ father helping to kill JFK.
This particular campaign centered around a common occurrence in Republican primaries. Who is the “real” Republican and who is the RINO?
In this case, Singh claimed to be the genuine GOP article, meaning he fully embraced the party’s current principles. That prompted him to question Mehta’s Republican credentials.
That line of attack is not unusual, but Singh certainly took a few, shall we say, liberties, one of which was suggesting that Mehta was supporting the sale of “abortion pills” and that he was pushing opioids.
In truth, this skirmishing went on largely unnoticed by the general public. Let’s not forget the reality here – no sensible observer thought whoever won the GOP primary had a chance against Cory Booker, who, by the way, won re-election by 700,000 votes last fall.
In the end, Mehta won the primary by about 8,000 votes. This was a five-person race and although Mehta claimed victory soon after the pandemic-delayed July 7 primary, the results didn’t become official until late August.
This raises an obvious question and perhaps a conclusion.
What damage did Singh’s allegations do if Mehta won anyway?
And is it logical to conclude that Mehta’s victory is evidence that a plurality of voters did not believe what Singh was selling?
The suit was filed in Morris County (Mehta lives in Chester Township). where there is some history. Back a hundred years ago – actually, it was 1994 – Chris Christie was infamously sued for defamation by three of his freeholder primary opponents. One of the three actually won the primary and he dropped out of the suit on the grounds that if he won, the alleged defamation had little effect.
The same is true here, right?
Well, maybe not.
Alan Zakin, Mehta’s lawyer and a veteran in his own right of Morris County post-election courtroom battles, contends that Singh’s false charges forced Mehta to use resources in the primary that could have been saved for the general election against Booker. Moreover, Zakin says his client “has to professionally overcome being called an ‘opioid pusher’ as a pharma executive who built a reputation making drugs safe and focusing on over the counter nutrients.”
Moreover, Zakin argues that Mehta wants to take a stand in favor of facts and against candidates who spend lavishly on falsehoods.
Few would quibble with that point.
In case you are wondering, Singh remains active in state politics, announcing a run for governor a few months ago.
One of his recent Facebook posts says nothing about the suit, but condemns “Never Trump” Republicans.