Devin Nunes Admits That His Bogus Defamation Lawsuits Are Really About Phishing For Journalists' Sources

from the slapp-suits dept

We have already talked about how the two separate defamation lawsuits Devin Nunes has filed against critics and journalists are bullshit SLAPP suits designed to intimidate and attack protected speech. But now Nunes himself has gone even further, admitting out loud that his intent with at least the second lawsuit, against the Fresno Bee, is to force the newspaper to give up its sources:

“I am absolutely sure that they do not want this to get to discovery so that we find out who their sources are,” Nunes told Fox & Friends. “Somebody gave them the phony information that the National Rifle Association was involved with Russian collusion. Somebody gave them the phony information that Cohen was in Prague when he wasn’t.”

Here's the video of him saying that:

So, first of all, the issue with the NRA and Michael Cohen aren't even the subject of the lawsuit he's filed, so that's a bizarre thing to raise unless the intent of the lawsuit is purely performative for an idiotic base who wants to build up some big conspiracy. Second, he's flat out admitting that the intent of his lawsuit is an attack on basic press freedoms like source protection. Remember, this is a Congressman who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, and that includes the 1st Amendment he is attacking with these lawsuits.

Furthermore, in the video Nunes suggests he's not done yet, saying "we're actually going to go after several media outlets." Apparently, he's decided going to war with the First Amendment is a good idea. Also in the video, Nunes claims that he sued Twitter for shadow-banning him, which (1) it did not do, and (2) it legally could if it wanted to, and (3) the shadow-banning, while talked about in the lawsuit, is not actually part of any of the actual claims in the lawsuit.

More and more this appears to be lawsuit-as-performance, allowing Nunes to rile up a base by pretending to take on critics and the media. And that's exactly what the 1st Amendment does not allow -- especially from a public, elected official. The fact that Nunes chose to file these cases in Virginia state court, with its much weaker anti-SLAPP laws, rather than in California's courts (where he, the Fresno Bee, and Twitter, all are) suggests that even he knows these cases wouldn't survive a true anti-SLAPP test. But now that he's out and out admitting that the point of the lawsuits is to go on a journalistic source fishing expedition (even over stories totally unrelated to the one about him) certainly seems to confirm how much Nunes is focused on spitting on the First Amendment that he's sworn to protect.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, anti-slapp, defamation, devin nunes, fishing expedition, free speech, journalism, slapp, source protection, sources


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Apr 2019 @ 1:51pm

    The Constitution doesn’t say a lot of things. Until and unless state-level shield protections are declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, they count as legal protections for journalists, even if the Constitution says nothing about shield protections.

    A federal shield law would fix the disagreements between the states on what does and does not constitute shield protections. Whether you could find support for that in Congress, however, is likely dependent on kicking out of office the most anti-journalist president in history (and his Congressional cronies).

    And yes, people are “supposed” to receive equal justice, but reality rarely works out that way. Just ask anyone who has ever been wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit, or anyone who has ever been on the business end of police brutality, or anyone who had their life savings stolen by people who received figurative slaps on their wrists for their economically devastating white collar crimes.

    As far as the “journalists committing crimes” bit goes, I generally believe a journalist that has not committed a crime or directly and knowingly aided and abetted the commission of a crime should not be charged with a crime for protecting their source. (A notable exception: If they protect their source knowing that the source will commit further crimes, yes, the journalist should either give up their source or face jail time.) Journalists rely on the confidentiality provided by shield laws to cultivate and protect sources of information, especially those sources who are risking more than public embarassment if their identity is revealed.

    To deny shield protections to journalists would upend the entire free press and prevent sources who want to remain anonymous from speaking out against, say, governmental abuses of power. It would fundamentally change how the press in the United States works — and not in a way that benefits the general public.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.