Why the family of Ahmed 'the clock kid' is suing Glenn Beck and a Texas mayor

The family of Ahmed Mohamed claims the conservative commentator and other media hosts made libelous statements against the then 14-year-old boy following his wrongful arrest.

LM Otero/AP/File
Ahmed Mohamed shows the clock he built in a school pencil box to reporters after a news conference in Dallas on Monday, Aug. 8. His family has filed two lawsuits following his wrongful arrest: one against his former school district and the city of Irving, and another against media personnel who they claim made libelous statements about him.

The father of the Sudanese-American Muslim teenager who was arrested last year in Texas after teachers mistook a homemade clock he brought into school for a bomb has filed a defamation suit against conservative commentator Glenn Beck and the mayor of his town on behalf of his son.

Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest was sharply criticized as an instance of racial profiling, and many high-profile figures and institutions, including President Obama, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and NASA, reached out to offer the then 14-year-old boy their support. But others took a harsh stance against Ahmed, arguing that the clock was part of a larger political conspiracy theory or public relations stunt.

The suit, filed Monday, claims that multiple media outlets made libelous statements against Ahmed after his arrest, The Dallas Morning News reports. It names Mr. Beck and his network, TheBlaze; FOX Televisions stations and their political commentators Ben Shapiro and Ben Ferguson; as well as the mayor of Irving, Texas, Beth Van Duyne.

"The Mohamed family are peaceful Muslims who have been falsely accused of being terrorists and engaging in a jihad," the suit states, according to the Dallas News. "The correction must also be made that the arrest and suspension of Ahmed Mohamed was not a stunt and it was not pre-planned, staged or engineered by anyone, including [his father]."

Ahmed was arrested in September, 2015, after bringing a clock he had built from a plastic pencil box, electrical wire, and hardware from his parents’ garage into school. School officials called police to the building, who searched Ahmed’s belongings and took him into custody. Ultimately, he did not face charges, but was suspended from school for three days. 

This is the second suit Ahmed’s family has filed. Last month, a suit alleging that officers arrested Ahmed without probable cause and violated his right to equal protection under the law was brought against his former school district, the school’s principal, and the city of Irving. Such arrests can have lasting and adverse effects on young people, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last September: 

Experts think the show of solidarity could help offset any potential stigma or shame Ahmed may feel as a result of his arrest – solidarity that other, lower-profile students in Ahmed’s position rarely receive. 

Jason Nance, an associate professor of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, writes in an article soon to be published by the Arizona State Law Journal, that one 'should not underestimate the negative effects of arresting a student, even when that arrest does not lead to conviction and incarceration.'

'If an arrested student is readmitted to school, that student often suffers from emotional trauma, stigma, and embarrassment and may be monitored more closely by [campus police officers], school officials, and teachers.'

The defamation suit focuses on comments Beck made during a show on TheBlaze, in which he divulged a theory that the clock bomb was part of a larger conspiracy that intended to turn Texas into a politically liberal state. The Mohameds’ suit also takes issue with Ms. Van Duyne, who appeared on the segment but did not correct any of the incorrect statements put forward.

The Mohameds relocated to Qatar shortly after the incident – where Ahmed received a school scholarship, – and said they wanted to live in a nation where their children wouldn’t face the same discrimination.

"The public has been misled into believing that the Mohameds are terrorists who plotted to have the Irving police wrongfully arrest a teenage boy for bringing an alarm clock to school," the lawsuit says. "These broadcasts irresponsibly fan the flames of fear and anger toward Muslims and immigrants."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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