Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Judge rejects Rep. Nunes' defamation lawsuit against CNN

Picture of Devin Nunes

A Manhattan judge on Friday tossed a defamation lawsuit against CNN brought by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in 2019.

The state of play: U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain threw out the suit, which sought $435 million in damages, because Nunes "failed to request a retraction in a timely fashion or adequately state his claims," AP writes.

  • The judge cited a technicality, finding that California law applied to the case and Nunes had failed to request a retraction as is mandatory under state law. The congressman's attorney claimed the laws of Virginia or Washington, D.C., should apply, but the judge ruled that it made more sense to use the laws of Nunes’ home state.

What she's saying: "The California Civil Code limits a defamation plaintiff's recovery to special damage unless the plaintiff makes a specific written demand for a retraction within a short period of time," the judge wrote.

  • "The notice and demand must be served within 20 days after knowledge of the publication or broadcast of the statements claimed to be libelous."
  • "The AC, which was filed over two months after the original release of the Ward Article and the Cuomo Prime Time interview, does not allege that any written request was served upon CNN, much less a request that identified the statements that Nunes may have considered defamatory."
  • Additionally, "the AC does not plead plausibly that Plaintiff suffered any special damages and thus fails to state a defamation claim upon which relief may be granted."

Context: Nunes' lawsuit said that CNN purposefully released a false report that claimed the California Republican — who was chair of the House Intelligence Committee at the time — met with Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2018 to collect possibly damaging information on President Biden.

  • CNN said Vicky Ward, the author of the report, was using testimony by Lev Parnas, a businessman who worked with Rudy Giuliani, and that it was not reporting on the accuracy of Parnas' testimony but rather on what it alleged.
  • The network's attorneys added that Nunes declined to comment for the story prior to its publication and instead "waited until it appeared and then filed this suit seeking more than $435 million in damages — labeling CNN ‘the mother of fake news,'" per AP.
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