On Monday Rep. Devin Nunes sued The Fresno Bee and McClatchy for $150 million.
It follows a lawsuit Nunes recently filed against Twitter, in which he seeks $250 million and accuses the social media giant of defamation and shadow banning his tweets so no one can see them.
Nunes has no hope of winning either suit.
The Tulare Republican should instead use his considerable influence to focus on what is important to his central San Joaquin Valley constituents — improving economic conditions, solving the immigration impasse so farmers can have a secure labor force and finding ways for new water supplies to be developed.
Nunes claims in his latest lawsuit that The Bee and parent company McClatchy defamed him by publishing a story last year about a party aboard a yacht that was owned by a Napa Valley winery, of which Nunes was an investor and limited partner.
The story never said Nunes was on the boat or took part in the party.
The Bee did report, based on court records, that a winery employee assigned to the party alleged men on the yacht did drugs and engaged with sex workers while on a cruise in the San Francisco Bay. The cruise was won in a charity fundraiser.
The Bee’s basis for the story were court documents, which came from a settlement that the former winery worker reached with the company. She sued over civil rights violations, emotional distress and sexual harassment and settled for an undisclosed amount.
Nunes’ defamation lawsuit begins by making several assertions. We fact check them here.
Claim: “McClatchy and its co-conspirators relentlessly attacked Plaintiff both in print and digitally — falsely and maliciously accusing Plaintiff of horrible crimes and improprieties...”
Fact: The story never accuses Nunes of any crime or improprieties. It does, however, show what he invested in. It notes that Nunes at that time had few other investments, making the winery more important in his portfolio. It is a time-honored tradition for news organizations to report on financial holdings of their elected officials because that is relevant to the voters’ understanding of their representatives.
Claim: “ ... falsely attributing to him knowledge he did not have ...”
Fact: The story quotes a winery representative saying none of the investors was involved in managing the winery, and no one on the yacht had connections to the winery or its investors. The story also quotes the California Tax Service Center that limited partners typically have “little knowledge or participation” in running a partnership.
Claim: ...”implying that he was involved with cocaine and underage prostitutes ...”
Fact: The story never states or implies Nunes did drugs or had sex.
Claim: “...imputing to Plaintiff dishonesty, unethical behavior, lack of integrity and an unfitness to serve as a United States Congressman.”
Fact: If Nunes is referring to his highly controversial time as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, The Bee pointed out how Nunes had lost sight of his constitutionally mandated role, that the legislative branch must be a check on the executive branch (or President Donald Trump).
The reality is Nunes is looking to harass The Bee and its parent company over a bogus lawsuit that will cost time and money to defend. Like most of his last term, this effort will be a waste of time that should be better spent on issues that matter. We know we would rather spend our time on issues of significance to people in the Central Valley.
When it comes to making a difference, The Bee provides daily stories about people, places and events in the Valley. The best way to put this lawsuit in its place is to support The Bee and local journalism. You can subscribe online at www.fresnobee.com.