It’s a strange trial that pitted the Bon Sens association against… Bill Gates. The French collective, opposed to vaccination and most anti-Covid measures, indeed believed “having been deliberately and maliciously denigrated by the billionaire in front of millions of viewers”. But he was dismissed from all his requests by justice.
At the origin of the summary complaint, an interview with the American multi-billionaire on the set of the television news of France 2, on May 6. Journalist Thomas Sotto questioned Bill Gates on the accusations made against him since the start of the health crisis: “Conspirators around the world almost accuse you of having fabricated the Covid epidemic which we still cannot get rid of. How do you respond to that? Does that make you smile? Are you worried? Are you brushing it off with the back of your hand?”
To which the billionaire replied: “It’s very strange, I didn’t expect it. I’ve spent billions on vaccines to save millions of lives. And now they’ve completely turned the tide saying I make billions killing people. In a way, it’s quite humorous, but it’s also problematic. It discourages people who might take the vaccine and it’s our best tool to prevent deaths. From this point of view, it is something tragic. I would like the facts to come out: this is a great vaccine and we are trying to do our best to save lives.”
Three controversial plaintiffs
For Bon Sens, this is an unacceptable attack: the association argues that “arguing that the so-called “conspirators” endanger the lives of the French by their questioning of the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid-19”, Bill Gates “would suggest to viewers that the social or legal actions taken by the Bonsens.org association would be harmful to the population”. The complaint was also brought by three founding members of Bon Sens: Xavier Azalbert, owner of the FranceSoir.fr site (which no longer has anything to do with the newspaper of the same name); Christian Perronne, former head of the infectious diseases department at Garches hospital (Hauts-de-Seine) who was dismissed for his comments on the Covid-19 pandemic; as well as Silvano Trotta, a pro-Trump influencer who, for example, explains to his subscribers that the Moon is “artificial” and “dig”.
Problem: the billionaire therefore cited neither BonSens nor the three plaintiffs, and did not even utter the word “conspirator”. Contacted by CheckNews in an attempt to understand the complaint, neither Xavier Azalbert nor the lawyer for Bon Sens, Diane Protat, responded to our requests.
Common Sense’s only complaint against Bill Gates is therefore that he claimed that vaccines work. By this simple statement (which is also based on a broad scientific consensus), in response to a question from a journalist, he would attack conspirators and therefore Common Sense. For this alleged damage suffered, the plaintiffs asked for no less than 5 million euros in damages for the association, and one million for its founders.
“Basically it is a reverse gag procedure”, the lawyer for the founder of Microsoft had fun in his argument, in reference to the procedures generally brought by large groups or powerful personalities to silence an association or a media for example.
The court finally ruled, dismissing Bon Sens and its founders of all of their claims. However, the court did not condemn the association for abuse of rights, judging that, as it stands, “their bad faith was not established”. However, the association, as the losing party, was “ordered to pay the costs” : in other words, it is she who must pay the costs directly related to the procedure she brought against Bill Gates.
To note that Release was supported by the European Center for Journalism and its Solutions Journalism program, which is itself funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of this project, Release will publish a series of reports devoted to initiatives to combat the effects of global warming, in the most affected regions of the world.