A federal court in Detroit has ordered former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell to pay $4.5 million to the openly gay University of Michigan alumnus whom he likened to Nazis and whose sexuality, he claimed in vitriolic blog posts, was a threat to the college community.
That alumnus, Chris Armstrong, was at the time the first openly gay student body president in the college’s history. Shirvell, also a Michigan alumnus, was so miffed about Armstrong serving as the top student executive at his alma mater that he started a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch, ostensibly to warn others about Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda”
In late 2010, Shirvell started his blog with a post that read, in part: “This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong – a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR – as the new head of student government.” Shirvell infamously posted derogatory, photoshopped images of Armstrong on that blog, such as one with a rainbow flag emblazoned with a swastika and the word “resign” scribbled across Armstrong’s face.
As he continued blogging, Shirvell eventually began to report on Armstrong’s personal life, stalking his Facebook page and trumpeting the most banal happenings as proof of some sinister gay agenda. Shirvell also referred to Armstrong as “Satan’s representative” and even protested outside his house.
When questioned about his motives, most notably in a lengthy interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Shirvell said his actions were political speech, and that his problem was not with Armstrong being gay, per se, but with Armstrong advancing his gay agenda on everyone else.
Armstrong filed suit over the blog, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy, among other related offenses. A U.S. District Court jury sided with him in the case, finding in his favor on four counts, according to CNN—defamation, infliction of emotional distress, stalking and invasion of privacy.
Shirvell was immediately suspended from his position in the attorney general’s office after news of his blog went national in 2010. He was fired soon thereafter, with the AG’s office saying that, “as a result of Andrew’s conduct, it’s become impossible for him to carry out his duties as an attorney general.”