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

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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Apr 2019 @ 7:38am

    Can you show a single “lie” that was said by anyone he is suing? And I do not mean “something unflattering about Nunes” — I mean an actual lie told with malicious intent/reckless disregard for the truth. You claim the people being sued are “liars and charlatans”; let us all see you back that claim up.

    And as for the non-transparency bit? Yes, journalists do require some form of non-transparency to cultivate sources. If sources absolutely could not remain anonymous under any circumstance, fewer people would come forward as sources. If you believe otherwise, keep in mind that this principle applies to legal matters as well. To wit: Separation of church and state lawsuits. Atheists and people of minority faiths who file such lawsuits (or have legal groups file such lawsuits on their behalf) sometimes ask for anonymity in the filings because they fear being harassed — or worse — if their identities leak to people of the majority faith in a given city or town. A journalist’s sources may fear similar outcomes if their identity is made public, which is why they can remain anonymous unless the courts rule otherwise.

    No one should feel afraid to speak out against government officials, whether they are illegally promoting religion or are tangentially involved with something scandalous. Nunes wants to make sure the sources for the story he is suing over feel that fear. For that, I will speak out against him. If you cannot handle it, sue me.

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