Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the previous chair of the House Intelligence Committee, filed a lawsuit Monday against The McClatchy Company for reporting he says was designed to derail his committee’s investigation into how the FBI handled investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private email use and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The lawsuit, obtained by Fox News and filed in Virginia, focused heavily on one particular article from McClatchy reporter MacKenzie Mays, titled “A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event.”
The article was published in 2018 but featured events that took place in 2015 and had nothing to do with Nunes. Nunes, according to the lawsuit “was (and is) a limited partner of the Alpha Omega Winery.” During a charity event, a third party auctioned off use of the yacht. Those who won the auction went on to use the yacht for a party that allegedly included the use of cocaine and underage prostitutes. An employee of Alpha Omega Winery went on to sue the company because of the event, Nunes’ lawsuit says.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that McClatchy knowingly published false information about the event in order to smear Nunes. For example, the McClatchy article stated that guests on board the yacht were “top investors” in the winery, even though Alpha Omega released a statement in 2016 saying “No one in the group had any personal or business connection to the winery or its owners, and no Alpha Omega staff knew anyone in the group.”
Also in the article, according to Nunes’ lawsuit, McClatchy claimed that it was “unclear … if he [Nunes] was … affiliated with the fundraiser.” Nunes claims in the lawsuit that McClatchy had been informed by Alpha Omega “that Nunes had no affiliation whatsoever with the event.”
Further, the article originally stated that Alpha Omega sold wine to “Russian clients while the congressman was at the helm of a federal investigation of Russian meddling into the presidential election.” Nunes claims in the lawsuit that McClatchy then edited this part of the article twice – the second time as a “stealth edit” which removed the claim that the wine sale occurred “while” Nunes was investigating Russian collusion, but that the discovery of the wine sale – which actually happened in 2013 – occurred while Nunes was conducting the investigation.
Nunes previously filed a lawsuit against Twitter for silencing conservatives but allowing smear campaigns to take place against Republicans like himself. In that lawsuit, he listed political consultant Liz Mair as a defendant for tweets she had put out against the congressman. Mair is also included as a defendant in the McClatchy lawsuit, which claims she was behind the yacht party narrative.
Using political opposition research and tenuous connections to smear a political candidate is nothing new. News outlets have been printing similar articles since the beginning of the press. This reporter has been pitched numerous times with such information. It’s difficult to see Nunes lawsuit going anywhere – or him receiving the requested $150 million in damages from McClatchy – but it may shine a light on this deceptive practice by “journalists.”