Judge Gives Devin Nunes Green Light To Sue Washington Post For Defamation — Here’s The 411

Written by Wes Walker on August 17, 2021

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With all eyes turned to Biden’s spectacular failures in Kabul, it’s easy for smaller domestic stores to get swallowed up in the noise. That doesn’t diminish their importance.

This one could be a game-changer. Remember how Nick Sandmann sued the hell out of WaPo, CNN etcetera for defaming him and his teenage classmates as bigots simply because they stood their ground with MAGA hats while some alleged grown men taunted them with racist insults, and an activist with a drum tried (and failed) to provoke them?

That stood as proof to the world that there is a line (somewhere) that news media cannot cross when slinging mud at people. Now, Devin Nunes will go looking to see where, exactly, that line is drawn — and if even elected officials deserve protection from willful defamation by such powerful cultural voices as the press.

After hearing his petition, a judge decided Nunes deserves his day in court to find out, and he is free to depose WaPo for defamation.

Long story short:

WaPo reporter Ellen Nakashima, in November 2020, claimed that Devin Nunes wrongly believed and spread claims that Trump Tower had been ‘wiretapped’ in 2016… a claim that Nunes has never made, and one that WaPo itself has (in its own earlier reporting) contradicted. He also objected to their assertion that he ‘made a midnight run’ to the White House in which he reportedly viewed intelligence filings.

Here’s what the judge had to say about it.

In Wednesday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols of the District of Columbia said it was a close question of whether the article was defamatory. However, he found that Nunes “has sufficiently pleaded that, in November 2020, the Post published its article with at least reckless disregard of the truth that it had previously reported.”

The judge said that, by the time of the disputed article’s publication, “there was evidence to support (at least to a certain extent) Nunes’s claims about intelligence activities that touched on the Trump campaign,” citing a DOJ inspector general report on the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

“Taken as a whole, the article says (or at least a reasonable juror could understand the article to say) that Nunes had made baseless claims about spying on Trump Tower and then visited the White House to inspect documents that might support those baseless claims. And a reasonable juror could conclude that an elected official is ridiculous or unfit for office if he searched for evidence to support baseless claims,” Nichols wrote.

The judge also pointed to the Post’s previous reporting that stated Nunes did not believe Obama officials wiretapped Trump Tower. “A newspaper’s own prior (and correct) reporting that is inconsistent with its later (and incorrect) reporting could certainly give the paper reason to seriously doubt the truth of its later publication—just as a source’s pre-publication recantation may be evidence that a publisher had reason to doubt the source’s original claims,” Nichols wrote. –Law

Ultimately, the Washington Post put words in Nunes’ mouth that he had never uttered.

Is this case a slam dunk?

By no means.

But — if these corporations face a few court cases like this where they are fast and loose with facts so that they can do their part to ‘fortify an election’, as Time magazine put it, maybe it will make them think twice about making reckless and irresponsible statements about people whose only ‘crime’ is not backing the ‘blue’ party.

Just the News explains what comes next, and provide Nunes’s reaction to the ruling:

The ruling means that Nunes, who has challenged the mainstream media’s inaccurate reporting on multiple occasions, can proceed to discovery, taking depositions from editors and reporters at the Jeff Bezos-owned publication. The congressman on Sunday applauded the decision.

…“The Washington Post, like the rest of the fake news outlets, has to be held accountable for deliberately spreading false stories and smearing people for political purposes,” he told Just the News. “Now they’ll have an opportunity to show in court how they compiled this article and what journalistic ethics they violated in doing so.” —JustTheNews

The one other detail of note is WaPo’s failure to shift the venue from DC to California, where Devin lives.

“The Court thus concludes that Nunes’s injuries—at least as alleged in the Complaint—are primarily suffered in the District of Columbia,” the judge wrote. “That is where he alleges he meets and interacts with other public officials, was considered for appointed positions, received numerous threats, and performs the majority of his duties as ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. It also happens to be where much of the Post’s readership resides, where the Post is headquartered, and where the events underlying the article occurred.” —JustTheNews

Why is it important that cases like this be brought in the first place? As Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton likes to remind us when talking about the political left’s strategy of bringing cases to the court — ‘the punishment is the process’.

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