After Losing Defamation Case, Devin Nunes Wants To Change US Libel Law
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has filed five lawsuits against media companies since 2019, racking up a dismal court record along the way. Now, he “is urging a federal appeals court to reconsider a 1964 Supreme Court case that’s considered the bedrock of U.S. libel law,” according to The Fresno Bee.
That case, known as New York Times vs. Sullivan, holds that public officials can successfully sue news organizations only if they can prove that journalists act with “actual malice” in publishing false information.
The new brief is an appeal to an August decision by a federal judge in Iowa dismissing Nunes’ lawsuit against Esquire Magazine, which in 2018 published a story about the congressman’s family moving its dairy from California to Iowa and suggested that the operation likely relies on undocumented immigrants for farm labor.
In dismissing the case, Judge C.J. Williams wrote Nunes ‘complaint relies on ‘naked assertion[s]’ and ‘labels and conclusions’ which are devoid of ‘further factual enhancement,’ to establish actual malice.”
Nunes reportedly is appealing that decision with the argument that “the current standard for defamation of a public figure should be thrown out” because it is “outdated” in the age of social media.
This is the first time Nunes has argued in court that longstanding case law on defamation should be overturned, but it echoes what President Donald Trump has said many times. Trump and Nunes have been close allies since Trump’s election in 2016. In one example, in September 2018, after a book was published about Trump that contained unflattering details, Trump tweeted that it was a “shame” that “someone can totally make up stories.”