A federal appeals court has revived a portion of Representative Devin Nunes’s defamation lawsuit that was dismissed last year finding that the defendant’s tweeting a link to the allegedly defamatory article after the lawsuit was filed could satisfy the actual malice requirement.
In September 2018, Esquire magazine published an article about Representative Nunes and a dairy farm in Iowa owned by Nunes’s family. Political journalist, Ryan Lizza, authored the article titled “Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret” (online version) and “Milking the System” (print version). The print version included a caption with two questions about Nunes: “So why did his parents and brother cover their tracks after quietly moving the farm to Iowa? Are they hiding something politically explosive?”
Nunes took issue with a number of claims in the article. In his defamation complaint filed in 2019, Nunes identified 11 statements in the article that he alleged were defamatory. Additionally, Nunes alleged that the article falsely implied that he “conspired or colluded with his family and with others to hide or cover-up” that the farm “employs undocumented labor.”
In August 2020, a federal judge in northern Iowa dismissed the case finding that none of the statements identified by Nunes were defamatory as a matter of law and that Nunes, as a public figure, had not met the high bar of showing that the magazine or Lizza had published the article with actual malice.
Nunes appealed the dismissal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal the Court ruled that the district court correctly sided with the defendants in deciding that the allegedly defamatory statements failed as a matter of law. However, the Court sided with Nunes on his argument that the district court improperly dismissed his claims for defamation by implication. Defamation by implication occurs when the defendant either juxtaposes a series of facts to imply a defamatory connection between them or omits certain facts to create a defamatory implication. Continue reading ›