Marc Elliot, a NXIVM teacher who says its teachings helped him overcome Tourette’s Syndrome, has filed a lawsuit against STARZ TV and the producers of the docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult alleging defamation, violation of right to privacy by the unconsented to the appropriation of his name and likeness, placing him publicly in a false light, and intentionally inflicting severe emotional distress.
Elliot is seeking more than $6 million in damages and as follows:
- $3 million in damages.
- $500,000 in per se damages,
- $500,000 in actual and compensatory damages,
- $2 million in punitive damages,
- attorneys fees,
In addition, he is seeking an award of 25 percent of the profits “derived from the direct publication of the Seduced series on any of Defendants’ STARZ network platforms, and any of Defendants’ subsidiary networks.”
STARZ is an American premium cable and satellite television network owned by Lions Gate Entertainment. Seduced is available for streaming on STARZ, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies and TV, Apple TV, and Vudu.
The lawsuit is filed in the US Central District of California.
Elliot’s claims STARZ and the producers of Seduced through “misleading splicing of words,” and “creative film editing, voice-overs, and out-of-context statements… have communicated to viewers of the series that Plaintiff [Elliot] is dangerous, has been trained to kill, is capable of killing himself if told to, and condones violence against women. Defendants characterize Plaintiff to the likening of a rapist, a terrorist in training, a Nazi experimenter, and a potential murderer at the direction of Raniere. Viewers are left with an indelible imprint that Plaintiff is dangerous follower who is weaponized.”
Elliot, who is Jewish and claims family members were murdered by Nazis, says “his comparison to the likes of Nazis… is particularly disheartening, and repugnant.”
A resident of St. Louis, Missouri, Elliot claims he “has been subject to widespread humiliation, denigration, mental and emotional anguish, social stigma, threats, professional backlash, and occupational losses.”
In the lawsuit, Elliot alleges the producers repeatedly veered from honest documentary-making and depicted him “without due consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination ordinarily followed by responsible parties.”
One instance of alleged intentional “manipulating and slicing” of videos takes place in Episode 2, “Indoctrinated” where producers spliced video footage from two different meetings to falsely make them appear as occurring in one meeting to fit their “defamatory narrative.”
Elliot alleges, STARZ took audio of NXIVM founder Keith Raniere speaking at a Society of Protectors meeting, and video of Elliot endorsing a Jness meeting, on a different subject and date, to make it appear that Elliot was responding to Raniere’s statements at the SOP meeting.
The producers also added a fake applause track.
Footage of Brandon Porter, Nancy Salzman and Marc Elliot is shown on STARZ’s Seduced. Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation produced the four-part docuseries, which was directed by Cecilia Peck, daughter of the late actor, Gregory Peck. The four-part series aired on STARZ from October to November 2020.
India Oxenberg, who was a member of NXIVM for seven years, was an executive producer of the series and appears prominently in it. Elliot alleges that “Oxenberg had knowledge of the falsity of Seduced’s content.”
Elliot’s attorney is Joseph Tully of Tully & Weiss of Martinez, CA.
It is alleged that Elliot appears more than 19 times in the docuseries and is depicted as “the ultimate loyalist of the insinuated sex cult, and extremely dangerous” yet he was “never approached, interviewed, or consulted on the content included in Seduced, which featured his name, likeness, and image. Plaintiff never provided consent for the commercial use of his name, likeness, and image in the series.”
In another alleged instance of STARZ and Lions Gate’s use of “purposeful editing and misinformation” they “make it appear as though Plaintiff is receiving orders from Raniere to kill someone and that such actions are justified.”
The unedited cuts allegedly show “Raniere was talking about building compassion and empathy for all individuals, and the importance of extending that compassion to all humans, including someone who had committed a horrible act, like murder. He was not condoning the action of murder and was not giving someone instructions to kill, as Defendants falsely portrayed….”
As can be seen in the original footage of The Source training with no cuts, someone other than Elliot asked Raniere a question that prompted Raniere’s response, it is alleged.
The producers, it is alleged, spliced Elliot “asking Raniere a question from one section of the raw footage and Raniere responding to another participant from a different section of the raw footage, making it look as though Raniere was directly talking to [Elliot] instead.
“Defendants falsely and intentionally made it appear that Plaintiff was receiving orders from Raniere to kill. Not only did these edits grossly mischaracterize Raniere’s statement, but they also falsely portrayed Plaintiff as the intended audience of Raniere’s words and purported commands.”
In yet another alleged instance, the producers focus on the so-called ‘human fright’ studies conducted by Dr. Brandon Porter.
“In describing the studies completed by Dr. Porter, Defendants next use… purported ‘cult expert,’ Dr. Janja Lalich, who states, ‘Makes one immediately think about what the Nazis were doing, where they carried out horrific experiments under the guise of great medical experiments….”
As she makes this statement, the producers display a clip of Elliot “laughing hysterically, sitting next to Dr. Porter and Nancy Salzman.”
“In actuality, this is a clip taken while they were discussing working with individuals with Tourette’s and having great success in doing so.
“Defendants’ implied message to viewers is that Plaintiff’s participation in NXIVM is comparable, and similar to the ‘horrific experiments’ conducted by Nazis, with Plaintiff engaging in allegedly ‘unconscionable’ and ‘illegal’ activity.”
The lawsuit claims, “The fact that Defendants had to manipulate and splice together footage containing Plaintiff… shows that all statements made by Defendant in which Plaintiff was a subject through his likeness, were false, intentionally injurious to Plaintiff, and known to be such by Defendants.”
In the above-mentioned example in Episode 2, “Indoctrinated,” where the producers “manipulated and spliced video footage” from two meetings to make them appear as one, the sequence appears as follows:
An audio of Raniere speaking: “The primitive parts of us are hungry fucky beasties. I mean, that’s what we want to do. Just fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I feel like fucking something today. God, I’m pissed, I want to fuck something, you know. If we conquer a woman, if we grab the thing we want to fuck, whatever it is and fuck it. They enjoy it.”
This is followed by applause.
Then Marc Elliot is shown. He says, ‘No one has ever taught us how to relate to women, nowhere, in all the education of my whole life. And this is, in my opinion, the Harvard of trying to relate to women. You have to come.”
Elliot alleges that Seduced took the audio from a Society of Protectors (“SOP”) meeting where Raniere speaks, then they added applause to make it appear that his audience was cheering his comments. There was no applause at the SOP meeting.
Then they took footage from a video of a JNESS meeting, taken on another day, of Elliot endorsing JNESS classes on an entirely different topic, to make it appear that Elliot is endorsing Raniere’s statement about “fucking,” “grabbing,” and “conquering” women, and inviting other men to do the same.
Elliot claims, “Plaintiff’s testimonial is predicated by an audio clip of Raniere, which are actually Defendants intentionally took the footage out of context, and manipulated it, and added applause to give a false appearance that those in attendance supported sexual violence and misconduct against women….”
The lawsuit gives Frank Report honorable mention:
“In May 2017, a blog called the Frank Report began to publish posts about a secret women’s society that allegedly was associated with NXIVM, and was purported to be involved in sex trafficking. The blog publicly exposed people’s names and personal information without those people’s consent. Because of the salacious nature of the articles, many people in the NXIVM community feared being mentioned in the blog, despite the fact that they were not affiliated with the women’s group in question; being mentioned in the blog could have potentially devastating effects to someone’s reputation. The women’s group was not formally a part of the NXIVM group of companies.”