Fact check­ing Rep. Devin Nunes’ friv­o­lous law­suit against The Fresno Bee

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY MCCLATCHY CAL­I­FOR­NIA OPIN­ION ED­I­TORS

On Mon­day, Rep. Devin Nunes sued The Fresno Bee and McClatchy for $150 mil­lion.

It fol­lows a law­suit Nunes re­cently filed against Twit­ter, in which he seeks $250 mil­lion and ac­cuses the so­cial me­dia gi­ant of defama­tion and shadow ban­ning his tweets so no one can see them.

Nunes has no hope of win­ning ei­ther suit.

The Tu­lare Repub­li­can should in­stead use his con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence to fo­cus on what is im­por­tant to his cen­tral San Joaquin Val­ley con­stituents — im­prov­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions, solving the im­mi­gra­tion im­passe so farm­ers can have a se­cure la­bor force and find­ing ways for new water sup­plies to be de­vel­oped.

Nunes claims in his lat­est law­suit that The Bee and par­ent com­pany McClatchy de­famed him by pub­lish­ing a story last year about a party aboard

a yacht that was owned by a Napa Val­ley win­ery, of which Nunes was an in­vestor and lim­ited part­ner.

The story never said Nunes was on the boat or took part in the party.

The Bee did re­port that a win­ery em­ployee as­signed to the party al­leged that men on the yacht did drugs and en­gaged with sex work­ers while on a cruise in the San Fran­cisco Bay. The cruise was won in a char­ity fundraiser.

The Bee based the story on court doc­u­ments that came from a set­tle­ment the for­mer win­ery worker reached with the com­pany. She sued over civil rights vi­o­la­tions, emo­tional dis­tress and sex­ual ha­rass­ment, and set­tled for an undis­closed amount.

Nunes’ defama­tion law­suit be­gins by making sev­eral as­ser­tions. We fact check them here.

Claim: “McClatchy and its co-con­spir­a­tors re­lent­lessly at­tacked Plain­tiff both in print and dig­i­tally — falsely and ma­li­ciously ac­cus­ing Plain­tiff of hor­ri­ble crimes and im­pro­pri­eties...”

Fact: The story never ac­cuses Nunes of any crime or im­pro­pri­eties. It does, how­ever, in­clude in­for­ma­tion about his in­vest­ments. It notes that Nunes had few other in­vest­ments at that time, making the win­ery more im­por­tant in his port­fo­lio. It is a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion for news or­ga­ni­za­tions to re­port on financial hold­ings of elected of­fi­cials be­cause that is rel­e­vant to the vot­ers’ un­der­stand­ing of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Claim: “... falsely at­tribut­ing to him knowl­edge he did not have ...”

Fact: The story quotes a win­ery rep­re­sen­ta­tive say­ing none of the in­vestors was in­volved in manag­ing the win­ery, and no one on the yacht had con­nec­tions to the win­ery or its in­vestors. The story also quotes the Cal­i­for­nia Tax Ser­vice Cen­ter that lim­ited part­ners typ­i­cally have “lit­tle knowl­edge or par­tic­i­pa­tion” in run­ning a part­ner­ship.

Claim: ...”im­ply­ing that he was in­volved with co­caine and un­der­age pros­ti­tutes ...”

Fact: The story never states or im­plies Nunes did drugs or had sex.

Claim: “...im­put­ing to Plain­tiff dis­hon­esty, un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior, lack of in­tegrity and an un­fit­ness to serve as a United States Con­gress­man.”

Fact: If Nunes is re­fer­ring to his highly con­tro­ver­sial time as chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, The Bee pointed out how Nunes had lost sight of his con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated role, that the leg­isla­tive branch must be a check on the ex­ec­u­tive branch (or Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump).

The re­al­ity is Nunes is look­ing to ha­rass The Bee and its par­ent com­pany over a bo­gus law­suit that will cost time and money to de­fend. Like most of his last term, this ef­fort will be a waste of time that should be bet­ter spent on is­sues that mat­ter. We know we would rather spend our time on is­sues of sig­nif­i­cance to peo­ple in the Cen­tral Val­ley.

SUSAN WALSH AP

Rep. Devin Nunes should use his con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence to fo­cus on what is im­por­tant to his cen­tral San Joaquin Val­ley con­stituents.

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