Political Notebook

Nunes’ spat with Twitter just latest battle in war for his message

The Bee asks Devin Nunes: Are you going to hold any town forums?

In an interview with The Bee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, was asked if he planned to host any local forums or town hall meetings. "Your paper is a joke to even bring these issues up or raise these issues," Nunes responded.
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In an interview with The Bee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, was asked if he planned to host any local forums or town hall meetings. "Your paper is a joke to even bring these issues up or raise these issues," Nunes responded.

After spending the weekend battling against Twitter on Twitter, Rep. Devin Nunes has made clear that his war on the mainstream media has now been extended to social media.

The Tulare congressman seethed over what he says was an apparent punishment handed down by Twitter, threatening to sue even after the social media platform explained and corrected the problem.

Nunes’ offensive against Twitter was the latest entry in a series of escalating attacks against media companies and other entities that share information he does not like or agree with. He has proved willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and exert considerable energy to ensure his total control over his personal, conservative message.

The fight began Friday, when Nunes shared a blog posted by Twitter entitled “Setting the record straight on shadow banning.”

The blog stated the social media giant was not hiding accounts from users due to the accounts’ political affiliation or ideology. A glitch was to blame for Republican representatives’ accounts not showing up when other users attempted to search for them by name that week, and it had been corrected.

Nunes was not convinced, saying Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, would be reporting Twitter to the Federal Election Commission but did not say for what reason.

On Sunday, Nunes told Fox News that he, Gaetz and several other Republican congressmen were “looking at any legal remedies” they could against Twitter.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy joined with his congressional neighbor on Monday, tweeting: “Conservatives will not be silenced on social media. We must stand up to Big Tech, #StopTheBias.”

Twitter: ‘We do not shadow ban’

Twitter spokesman Ian Plunkett said Monday that the company had no further statements beyond what was in the blog, but he noted Twitter had “stated repeatedly — including (in) public testimony to the U.S. Congress — we do not shadow ban.”

The disappearing accounts were first reported by Vice News, which said they were a byproduct of changes Twitter made in an effort to “improve the quality of discourse” on its platform. Essentially, Nunes and his colleagues were caught by a feature designed to punish perceived online trolls by lowering their visibility on the platform.

Democrat Andrew Janz, who is running against Nunes in November, piled on with his own tweet on Sunday: “I just learned that Twitter has shadow banned Devin Nunes for spreading fake news and Russian propaganda. You can’t make this stuff up.”

Nunes would not be the first Valley right-winger to sue Twitter.

In January, far-right activist Charles C. Johnson filed a civil rights claim against Twitter in Fresno County Superior Court.

Johnson claimed his permanent ban from the platform was a violation of his right to free speech, saying Twitter was the modern town square and could not limit a discussion of ideas. He also claimed prejudice against him because he is a Republican.

The case was dismissed this month.

Nunes on social media

Nunes typically uses his account to share and praise stories from right-friendly sources, such as The Daily Caller and National Review. But he will occasionally lend his considerable reach — he has about 221,000 followers as of Monday — to calling out mainstream media reports that he does not agree with.

Last week, he lashed out at CNN reporter Manu Raju when asked about new, redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act documents that seem to discredit Nunes’ previous statements on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

He then took to Twitter to hurl “fake news” claims at the broadcaster for not using his office’s full statement when CNN asked for comment. The statement attacked CNN’s “slavish adherence to the Democrats’ talking points.”

This statement followed a pattern familiar to The Fresno Bee, The New York Times, Politico and many other media outlets that cover Nunes regularly: The outlet asks his office for comment on a specific issue, typically on something Nunes has said or done. Nunes and his staff often don’t respond, but if they do, they release a statement that includes a complaint over previous coverage they deem as biased, a threat of withholding information until the coverage is corrected, a direct attack claiming the outlet has ties to a Democratic conspiracy against him or a combination of the three.

For example, Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said this when asked for comment on this story: “There cannot be a single Valley resident who still believes The Fresno Bee is objectively reporting the news as opposed to waging a furious political war against the Democrats’ opponents.”

This policy extends to in-person interviews, should the outlet ask a question he does not like. During The Bee’s last interview with Nunes, in February, Nunes spent 15 minutes answering questions on a variety of topics before launching into a one-minute attack when asked if he planned to hold any public town hall meetings.

His response included references to his appearances on talk radio, at trade shows and at fundraising events as his version of town hall meetings. These events are not, however, truly open to the public, as entry fees and other factors limit accessibility.

Nunes has also spent the last month dumping tens of thousands of dollars into TV, Facebook and radio advertisements attacking The Bee for a story linking him to a winery involved in a lawsuit alleging prostitution and drug use took place on its yacht. Prior to the story’s publication, Nunes refused to comment when asked by The Bee.

As he’s ramped up his attacks on the media, Nunes has continued to use alternative platforms to publish his unfiltered message.

He’s posted hundreds of blogs, written a book and several reports and spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on legislative mailers. He funds a right-wing blog, The California Republican. And although his critics attack him for a lack of public appearances in his own district, he makes regular speaking appearances at fundraisers and other events across the country.

Nunes was met by protestors Monday when he spoke at a $250-per-plate luncheon to benefit Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Spokane, Wash., the Spokesman-Review reported. He was reportedly scheduled to make a similar appearance Monday night in Chico to benefit Rep. Doug LaMalfa.

Among his recent non-fundraiser appearances was a speaking engagement alongside Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of a federal building in Oregon to demand federal land be turned over to the state. Nunes used his time to tell the around 50 people in attendance to bash the mainstream media and deny any collusion between Republicans and Russia in the 2016 election.

Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics
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