House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) is on a tear, and he’s coming for members of the media he says have been unfairly trying to smear him.
A day after sending eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice related to the Russia counterintelligence probe during the 2016 election, and less than a month after filing suit against Twitter for defamation, Nunes filed a $150 million lawsuit in Virginia against McClatchy news service and an opposition researcher who Nunes says tried to “destroy” his reputation.
The complaint filed on Monday specifically cited a May 23, 2018 article published by the Fresno Bee and written by Mays, entitled, “A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event.”
The article described a lawsuit’s allegations of a 2015 party aboard the yacht involving “25 of the Napa Valley-based [Alpha Omega Winery]’s top investors, all men — [who] were openly using what appeared to be cocaine and ‘drawing straws’ for which sex worker to hire.”
Nunes complaint alleges that the reporter used Twitter to try to link him to the party on the yacht; that McClatchy mischaracterized the party as a fundraiser; that the reporting alluded to a Russian connection between the yacht party and Nunes’ work on the Russia collusion investigation; and that McClatchy knew Nunes’ had nothing to do with the yacht party.
“Indeed, the entire purpose of every element of the Yacht/Cocaine/Prostitutes article – the headline, the photo, the film clips, and the text itself – is to link Nunes to an event that McClatchy actually knew before publication he had no involvement with,” the complaint stated.
Nunes is also naming Liz Mair, owner of opposition research firm Mair Strategies, who he has already named in the suit against Twitter, as a co-defendant in the McClatchy suit due to quotes she gave in some of the reporting related to the yacht party.
“They need to retract everything they did against me, but they also need to come clean with the American people,” Nunes said while appearing on Fox News’ “Hannity” Monday. “Retract all of their fake news stories. This is part of the broader clean-up. Remember, a few weeks ago, I filed against Twitter — they’re censoring conservatives. McClatchy is one of the worst offenders of this. But we’re coming after the rest of them. I think people are beginning to wake up now, I’m serious — I’m coming to clean up the mess.”
For her part, Mair wrote an op-ed for USA Today following the Twitter suit alleging Nunes’ goal with his lawsuits is simply to stifle free speech critical of him.
The Twitter accounts, @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow, posted not very nice things about the Republican California congressman. As for me, Nunes seems upset about my scrutiny, discussion and highlighting of publicly available information pertaining to him, and my criticism of his conduct, record and behavior — as well as my generally not having acted like a Miss Congeniality award winner toward him. In other words, he is suing me for doing my job as a political communications strategist.
Of course, a formal, legal response from me to Rep. Nunes’ lawsuit will be forthcoming.
But in the meantime, it’s vitally important that the entire nation understands what this lawsuit is really about: A sitting member of the U.S. government, specifically, a congressman, is trying to stifle free speech — mine, yours and every other American’s — by using litigation as a cudgel to bully and intimidate.
Nunes’ complaint, which acknowledges the “sensitivity” with filing defamation complaints against journalists, nevertheless maintains that McClatchy’s reporting on the yacht party story was intended to smear him, rather than simply report on an event.
“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.”