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Politics

Blackridge Strategy defends fake campaign websites

The office of Blackridge Strategy. .
The office of Blackridge Strategy. . Global News Radio 980 CFPL

Blackridge Strategy has broken its silence.

The London-based PR firm released a statement Tuesday morning, almost a week after the company found itself embroiled in scandal over fake campaign websites.

Blackridge Strategy, which is run by Amir Farahi and Jake Skinner, a public school board trustee, said in a statement “the media has willfully misrepresented the content of these websites as being slanderous and non-factual when the information presented on each website reflected verified, albeit harsh, facts.”

The release defends online statements made against Ward 5 councillor Maureen Cassidy and former ward 10 councillor Virginia Ridley.

Cassidy, the website maureencassidy.ca stated, couldn’t be trusted, citing her high-profile affair with former Mayor Matt Brown. A similar blog on Medium.com described Cassidy as a “pretend community champion,” who “plays the victim card to save her own neck.”

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READ MORE: Websites targeting incumbent London councillors during 2018 election registered to 2 men: court documents

Ridley, the virginiaridley.ca website said, was a “colossal spendthrift,” and “greedy.” It also accused her of child abuse for bringing her son to a lengthy budget meeting in 2016.

The Blackridge statement defends both websites and said all claims are backed up by publicly accessible minutes from meetings at London City Hall and “verified, responsible reporting.”

“While these websites may have resulted in hurt feelings, the information presented on each page accurately reflected choices Councillors Cassidy and Ridley made as elected officials,” the statement read.

Court documents released last Thursday showed an Amir Farahi re-registered the Cassidy website on May 22, 2018, more than four years after the website was registered by Cassidy herself. Farahi’s name appears again in the original registration for the Ridley domain, which CIRA, the manager of the .ca domain, reports took place in early September. Disclosures from GoDaddy and Wix.com also stated that a number of payments had been billed to a credit card registered under an Amir Farahi of London.

READ MORE: Councillor cuts ties with London firm caught up in ‘fake website’ scandal involving 2018 election opponent

A disclosure from CIRA shows the websites maureencassidy.ca and virginiaridley.ca had a transfer of ownership to a Ronald Young of London on Oct. 3, 2018.

Defending the websites runs contrary to an interview Farahi did with CTV London last October in which he said he was being framed and that someone had stolen his identity to set up the websites. Farahi said he hoped to find out who created the websites.

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The statement ends by saying they will take “swift legal action to seek reputational damages against any and all individuals and organizations that have slandered our names and/or Blackridge Strategy.”

Blackridge worked with a dozen municipal candidates in the 2018 election, including candidates who ran against Cassidy and Ridley. Six of their clients were elected.

Mayor Ed Holder, ward 2 councillor Shawn Lewis, ward 6 councillor Phil Squire, ward 7 councillor Josh Morgan, ward 10 councillor Paul Van Meerbergen and ward 14 councillor Steve Hillier all used their services.

Holder, Lewis, Morgan, Van Meergergen and Hillier all said they wouldn’t use the company again. Morgan said he suspended his contract with the company in October while Squire condemned the fake websites in an interview with the London Free Press.