09 Apr #yachtcocaineprostitutes
As we speak, the hashtag #yachtcocaineprostitutes is trending on Twitter. Naturally, we understand that this is a publicity stunt from a major Republican figure in order to potentially make it easier to advance the “fake news” narrative, and possibly get a judge to hear the case. This would make it easier to bring defamation cases to trial in the future, and maybe even make it easier for public figures or politicians to sue news outlets who publish negative stories about them. We can debate the motivations all day long, and we can go around and around discussing if a public figure should be able to sue a news outlet in the first place, but the case will probably never get that far anyway. We have to understand the differences between publicity stunts which create public discussions about topics, and actual laws. In this case the law is pretty clear, and Rep. Devin Nunes isn’t going to win.
Nunes brought a lawsuit into play against McClatchy, who operate 30 newsrooms nationwide including the Fresno Bee. The lawsuit claims defamation with regards to a 2016 headline about a Napa Valley winery called “Alpha Omega” in which Nunes was an investor. The salacious story included yachts, cocaine and prostitutes and a charity cruise. The lawsuit claims that this is part of a conspiracy to defame and defraud Nunes, and demands 150 million dollars. Nunes also sued Twitter earlier this year for an account called “Devin Nunes’ Cow” and made the demand for 250 million dollars. Our resident legal expert on defamation (Attorney Tony Abbatangelo) let us know in a minute long Youtube video that public defamation lawsuits are unbelievably difficult to win, because the plaintiff must prove that there was gross misinformation presented, and it was done with malicious intent. Without the ability to prove either of these things beyond a reasonable doubt, Nunes will lose.
The lesson to be learned is that suing for defamation of character is a very difficult undertaking, and if you are a figure in the public space it is even more difficult. Most people who have negative things written about them will entertain the possibility of suing someone for it. They almost never win. Good luck Devin, you will need it.
Let us know what you think in the comments.