Our Response to Ken and Arianna on Our Agreement to Build The Huffington Post Together
After trying to open a friendly, private dialogue with Ken Lerer and Arianna Huffington and being stonewalled by them for months, on November 15, 2010, we filed a lawsuit against them. We filed it even though our professional reputations and relationships in the progressive movement are very important to us, and we knew that some people might misunderstand our intentions. Our decision to file this lawsuit, with the commitment to donate any proceeds to progressive causes, shows how strongly we feel about it.
This is a legal case, and as such, our claim will be fully supported by documents and by the testimony of those who were there. It is disappointing but not surprising that Ken and Arianna would release a statement attempting to belittle our good faith attempts to resolve our concerns as friends.
The only document they referred to in that initial response, which they have now tried to retract, is one that supports our assertion that we were in a joint venture with them.
Here are some details worth noting:
• We wrote the blueprint - In November and December 2004, we gave Ken and Arianna documents and met with them, describing a website that combined the specific elements that make the Huffington Post what it is. Ken and Arianna have said repeatedly that although it seems obvious now, no one had ever done something like this before. Ken and Arianna now admit we gave them the memo but somehow contend it wasn’t the genesis of the Huffington Post.
• We presented our ideas at the meeting in Arianna’s living room - Ken and Arianna have claimed on numerous occasions that they “hatched” the idea for the Huffington Post at a December 3, 2004 meeting in Arianna’s Brentwood home. But Arianna had a transcript made and she circulated it. It shows that Ken did not say a single word at that meeting and Arianna moderated. Only Peter spoke forcefully at the meeting about the Internet and the need to create a new online strategy for Democrats, based on the plans we had for the website.
• We had an agreement to work together - Starting in November 2004, we had a series of meetings, conversations and email exchanges with Ken and Arianna, and we all agreed to build the site together. As late as December 22, 2004, we were sharing full plans, with budgets, staffing and other details, with them. They simply took our ideas, our concepts and our agreement to work on the site together and used them to raise money to do the site without us, failing to live up to their part of the joint venture. We have documents and emails reflecting this course of events.
• We were friends with Arianna, and that is how we approached her - Of all the attendees at the December 3 meeting, the only one actually staying at Arianna’s house was James. In the years before and after Arianna supposedly ‘rejected’ working with us, she was very happy to take our posts, links, contributions, suggestions, and guidance, and to praise us profusely privately and publicly. We have numerous such emails and communications.
When we raised our concerns with Arianna in August, we did so with the same respect and friendship we had shown in all the previous years. Contrary to the mischaracterizations in the statement put out by Ken and Arianna, we made no specific monetary demands and simply said we were seeking closure and fair resolution. We made clear that money was not the objective, that we just wanted what was fair, and we said that we could just make a joint donation to fund progressive causes. We praised the work so many of our friends had done to make the Huffington Post into the success it is, and said we wanted to be team players and to continue to contribute to the site’s future success. We tried time and again just to have a dialogue, as the friends we thought we were, and Ken and Arianna refused to speak to us.
Peter Daou & James Boyce