New York’s Cayuga Nation Sues Showtime for Defamation

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Aug 15, 2019

New York’s Cayuga Nation and tribal leader Clint Halftown filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday (August 13) against the key players behind the series “Billions.” The suit says that Showtime Networks and executive producers Brian Koppelman, David Levien and Andrew Ross Sorkin created an “offensive and defamatory portrayal” of the Indigenous nation and its leader in an episode that aired on May 5.

The Cayuga Nation, one of the five nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, argues that “in the episode of ‘Billions’ that is the subject of this lawsuit, the defendants did little service to the Nation's rich history, and even less to Mr. Halftown. Indeed, the defendants, using the exact names ‘Cayuga’ and ‘Halftown,’ chose instead to portray the Nation and Mr. Halftown as being involved in unscrupulous dealings and even criminal conduct.”

The lawsuit alleges that even though the show creators could have created false identities for the characters, they chose not to and never reached out to the Nation to obtain permission for the names they used. The episode highlights an illegal casino land deal, participation in bribery of a public official and blackmailing. “This episode of ‘Billions’ is a deliberate and intentional resort to an offensive stereotype of Native Americans as irresponsible, corruptible and even criminal, thereby exposing the Cayuga Nation and Mr. Halftown to public contempt, aversion and disgrace,” says the lawsuit. 

The Nation wants the court to ban the series from using its names and images moving forward, and to compensate the Nation for previously doing so without permission. The show pulls in 4.2 million viewers each week across platforms, according to Deadline.