Congress

Rep. Devin Nunes alleges another conspiracy to defame him

Nunes made attack ads against the Fresno Bee in 2018. He is now suing the paper’s parent company

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has filed a second multimillion dollar defamation lawsuit. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, has for the second time in weeks filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit alleging a wide-reaching conspiracy to defame him.

The California Republican seeks $150 million in damages from the newspaper publishing company McClatchy Co. and a Republican political consultant for an alleged scheme to damage his reputation by publishing misleading stories and tweets.

“The attacks on Nunes were pre-planned, calculated, orchestrated and undertaken by multiple individuals acting in concert, over a continuous period of time throughout 2018,” the complaint reads. “The full scope of the conspiracy, including the names of all participants and the level of involvement of any agents or instrumentalities of foreign governments, is unknown at this time and will be the subject of discovery in this action.”

The filing was first reported by Fox News. The suit was filed in Virginia state court and names McClatchy, owner of the Fresno Bee, Republican operative Liz Mair, and her consulting business Mair Strategies, LLC as defendants.

Nunes alleged in an earlier $250 million lawsuit that Mair worked in concert with Twitter and two parody accounts, “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow,” towards the same aim.

Both lawsuits allege the conspiracies were motivated by obstructing the congressman's investigation of the “alleged 'collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.”

Nunes, a frequent defender of President Donald Trump and former member of his transition team, has long alleged the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice mishandled the Russia probe.

A spokesperson for Nunes did not reply to a request for comment.

The 22nd District Republican has frequently targeted the Fresno Bee for criticism, including in television ads, radio ads and mailers attacking the paper as a “propaganda machine,” according to GQ. One mailer included the photo of a journalist and a radio ad included an audio recording of the voice of another.

In February 2018, following a question about whether Nunes would host town halls in his district, the congressman lashed out, describing the paper as a “joke” and a “left-wing rag.”

“With the limited opportunity we have had to review this claim, it is wholly without merit and we stand behind the strong reporting of The Fresno Bee,” a spokesperson for McClatchy said.

Nunes has to meet a high legal bar: In order for a public figure to prove defamation, the defamatory statement must have been made with actual malice, rather than negligence.

The lawsuit centers on a May 2018 story with the headline “A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event,” detailing a 2016 lawsuit against Alpha Omega Winery.

Rep. Devin Nunes serves as a limited partner in Alpha Omega Winery with an investment worth between $50,000 to $100,000, according to a 2017 financial disclosure.

Nunes alleges the headline, accompanying photos and tweets created the false impression that he engaged in the behavior described in the 2016 lawsuit.

Following the news of the lawsuit Tuesday morning, dozens of Twitter users began using the hashtag #YachtCocaineProstitutes.

Mair did not reply to a request for comment.

On Twitter, she changed her display name to “Being Sued By Devin Nunes,” and noted, “I think I’m now being sued by Devin Nunes for $400 million in total.”

 

 

 

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