SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In his latest legal onslaught against perceived critics of his policies, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $150 million defamation suit Monday in a Virginia circuit court against the McClatchy Co. and a Virginia communications consultant described as a “digital terrorist for hire.”
A record of the lawsuit couldn’t be found in the Virginia online records system, but Nunes, R-Calif., confirmed the lawsuit in a Monday night appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.
Nunes declared that McClatchy reporters need “to come clean with the American people” and retract their “fake news” reports. He said he wants such stories scrubbed from the internet and promised more legal challenges.
“If you’re out there and you lied and you defamed, we are going to come after you,” he told Hannity.
The lawsuit, which follows a previous $250 million lawsuit he filed against Twitter and a parody account known as Devin Nunes’ Cow, targets McClatchy for reporting by The Fresno Bee in a “scheme to defame Plaintiff and destroy his reputation.”
“With the limited opportunity we have had to review this claim, it is wholly without merit and we stand behind the strong reporting of The Fresno Bee,” a McClatchy spokeswoman said Monday night.
Nunes, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has denounced The Fresno Bee as a “left-wing rag” and a “joke,” and has largely refused to provide access to its reporters.
But the lawsuit targets one particular story in The Fresno Bee that ran during his re-election effort last year and reported on a 2016 lawsuit against a winery whose investors include Nunes.
The story by reporter Mackenzie Mays detailed claims in the lawsuit about an event that took place aboard a yacht where winery employee Alene Anase alleged she saw guests on the charity cruise using what appeared to be cocaine “and ‘drawing straws’ for which sex worker to hire.”
That suit was later settled for an undisclosed amount, but Nunes contends the headlines about the suit and its dissemination via Twitter and the internet “was part of a scheme to defame Nunes.”
Nunes never requested a correction to the story. Much of Nunes’ 43-page lawsuit focuses on Twitter, the number of Twitter followers The Bee and Mays have and the fact that the “Yacht/Cocaine/Prostitutes article was republished online and retweeted and posted on the Internet hundreds of thousands of times.”
“It traveled through social media like wildfire,” Nunes’ suit alleges, adding that “McClatchy’s words obviously had their desired effect — they linked Nunes to ‘underage prostitutes’ and ‘cocaine.’ “
The congressman’s earlier suit against Twitter and the operators of the Devin Nunes’ cow and Devin Nunes’ mom Twitter accounts had a similar impact online, drawing many new followers —the cow account quickly attracted more followers than Nunes’ own account and made him a target of late night comedians.
The suit against McClatchy, which accuses The Fresno Bee of “stealth edits” of the original story, also names Virginia political communications strategist Elizabeth A. “Liz” Mair, accusing her of attacking and smearing Nunes.
Mair, the latest suit notes, was sued earlier by Nunes and responded by changing her Twitter username to “BeingSuedByDevinNunes.”
Nunes claims in the suit that the attacks on him were made, in part, to “interfere with and divert Nunes’ attention from his investigation of corruption and alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.”