New Hanover senator files defamation lawsuit in race against Democrat opponent

Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, speaks in committee on Feb. 10, 2021. (Screen shot from

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  • Sen. Lee, R- New Brunswick, filed a defamation lawsuit against his Democrat opponent Marcia Morgan and her campaign committee.
  • Lee said the ad falsely claims that Lee used his political position to help clients at his law firm.
  • The ads are currently running on tv stations in the Wilmington area.

North Carolina Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, has filed a lawsuit against his Democrat opponent, Marcia Morgan, and her political campaign committee for allegedly defaming him and his law firm in television ads.

Lee, the incumbent in Senate District 9, is running against Morgan in SD 7. He filed a motion Monday in New Hanover County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the ads from running.

“When my opponent, Marcia Morgan, attacks and defames me, my law firm, and my law partners, I must defend myself and set the record straight,” said Lee. “The television stations in Wilmington have been notified that the ad they are airing from Marcia Morgan is false and defamatory. They owe it to their viewers to take the ad down immediately.”

According to a press release sent by Lee’s campaign, the ad falsely claims that Lee used his political position to help clients at his law firm. The lie mimics a false ad from a previous campaign. At that time, Democrat Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo stated that the charge was categorically false. Lee and his law firm have sent cease-and-desist letters to the television stations, outlining in detail the alleged defamation and lack of evidence for the false claims in the ad. 

“There are legal and political consequences when you lie and defame people and small businesses,” Lee said. “Marcia Morgan is going to learn the political consequences on Nov. 8, but the legal consequences could last longer.”

New Hanover County Democratic Party chose Morgan as the SD 7 nominee after original candidate Jason Minizcozzi withdrew in late June.

A law that makes it a misdemeanor to lie about a political candidate is being challenged by Attorney General Josh Stein. 

Stein’s latest filing in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes the case for declaring a 91-year-old state law unconstitutional. The law creates a misdemeanor crime for people who lie about candidates in election campaigns.

A split 4th Circuit panel already voted 2-1 to give Stein a temporary win in the case. The panel agreed on Aug. 23 to block Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman’s office from using the law to bring indictments against Stein and his associates.

That decision could end up saving Stein and other plaintiffs from prosecution. The statute of limitations in the case could run out next month. The Appeals Court is scheduled to hear arguments in Stein’s lawsuit in December.