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Devin Nunes has filed yet another Very Serious Defamation Lawsuit accusing a media outlet of doing bad conspiratorial things for reporting on him. This time, he's going after Esquire magazine, its publisher, Hearst Magazines, and reporter Ryan Lizza for Lizza's hilariouscary 2018 article alleging that Nunes isn't really much of a California dairy farmer, since his family's big dairy operation is actually in Iowa, not that the family wanted any attention drawn to the operation. The piece also noted that dairy farms in the area virtually all use undocumented immigrant labor, and Lizza interviewed "two sources with first-hand knowledge" that the Nunes dairy operation, NuStar, had hired at least some undocumented workers. Oh yes, and while he was working on the story, Lizza says, his car kept getting tailed again and again, including by a pickup whose license plate read "NUSTAR." As we said last fall, it's a hell of a good contribution to the "write-around" genre -- where journalists have to pursue a story where the subjects won't talk -- and still very much worth a read.

Yesterday, Nunes celebrated the one-year anniversary of the article's publication by demanding $75 million in damages from Lizza and Hearst, with yet another wackaloon legal complaint written in fluent Wingnut. Throughout the complaint, Nunes and his attorneys (yes, he's once again represented by the estimable Steven Biss) call the Esquire article by the very lawyerly term "the Lizza Hit Piece," and insist the article is definitely defamatory, because look at all the defamation!

The Lizza Hit Piece was a deeply flawed and desperate attempt by the Defendants (a) to target Plaintiff ahead of the November 2018 Congressional election, (b) to undermine confidence in Plaintiff and interfere with his official duties as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, and (c) to retaliate against Plaintiff for exposing corruption, including the DNC/Clinton campaign's role in funding the salacious "Steele dossier".

It's a good thing for Biss and Nunes you can't defame someone in a defamation suit. Otherwise they might have to prove some things! Not that they couldn't, we're sure.


The complaint, like Nunes's other exercises in judicial time-wasting, offers a lengthy biography of Nunes, noting all the wondrous things he's done for The Troops, because that's surely relevant to a journalist's discussion of immigration and dairy cows. Gotta prove he has some kind of reputation to defame, we suppose. And while Biss is at it, he offers this perfectly cromulent evidence of tortious intent, or at least tortured logic: Since Lizza was fired by the New Yorker last year for unspecified "improper sexual conduct," and also appeared on the infamous internet list of "Shitty Media Men" (bolded in the complaint, because that's good legal style), then obviously the entire Lizza Hit Piece is nothing more than a ploy to "distract readers from [Lizza's] negative image and history as a sexual predator and to improve his standing." Classy! (For what it's worth, CNN briefly suspended and then reinstated Lizza in early 2018 after its investigation found "no reason to continue to keep Mr. Lizza off the air.")

Further, the complaint turns the episodes of Lizza being surveilled by the Nunes family right around on him: Since he was doing reporting in Sibley, Iowa, the small community where Nunes's family lives, and tried to get interviews with family members, he was clearly up to no good. The complaint says Lizza was probably planning sex crimes, or at least behaving like a sex crimer, based on a piece in the very reliable journalism outlet The Federalist. Or as Biss puts it:

The Lizza Hit Piece falsely portrays Lizza as a hard-working reporter earnestly investigating a real story on the ground in Iowa, being stalked and intimidated by Plaintiff's family. In truth, as was reported almost immediately after publication of the Lizza Hit Piece, while he was in Sibley, Lizza stalked Plaintiff's grammar-school aged nieces, behaved like a sex offender or pedophile cruising the local neighborhood for victims, frightened a family member to tears, and exploited a grieving mother.

Translation: Lizza drove a "dark car with out of town license plates" and a neighbor said they'd spotted Lizza slowly driving by a Nunes family residence. In a neighborhood where children play! Clearly anyone who's rented a car should drive 45 miles per hour in residential neighborhoods, lest they be accused of planning to rape children; it's just safer that way! Perhaps because he knows sleazy innuendo is not actionable, Lizza appears not to have sued The Federalist. (Incidentally, the Federalist piece never calls Lizza a "pedophile" or "sex offender." That's all Biss. It also doesn't say Lizza ever actually followed any of the kids -- but they were definitely in the same town.)

So yeah, Lizza wasn't even doing real journalism reporting: He just traveled to Iowa to creep on little girls and then published a hit piece -- sorry, Hit Piece -- to cover up his true intent. If this dumb suit isn't dismissed, the discovery should be a hoot.

Now, for there to be any actual defamation, the defendant has to have knowingly and with actual malice published something they knew to be false, which is where things fall apart in the claim. The best the complaint can come up with is that Lizza supposedly defamed Nunes by saying his family had "hidden" the fact that their dairy farm is in Iowa, not the more politically convenient California, a "malicious lie made out of whole cloth that spread like wildfire throughout mainstream media and on social media as a result of publication of the Lizza Hit Piece." Lizza does point out that when Nunes spoke at an Iowa appearance with Steve King, the press release for the event said "Nunes' family has operated a dairy farm in Tulare County, California for three generations," conveniently leaving out the fact that the dairy farm was now in Iowa. That sounds like maybe they could have been more clearer!

Still, you know this is an airtight defamation suit that can't be defended under any silly First Amendment grounds, because, as the complaint says,

The strong defamatory gist and false implication from the Lizza Hit Piece is that Plaintiff was involved in, covered-up, used his office to cover up, conspired with others to conceal, or was aware of criminal wrongdoing.

DEFAMATORY GIST! We are informed by Wonkette's legal lawyer attorneys at law Liz and Jamie, Esquires, that's not an actual thing.

In addition to that accusation of scurrilously lying to destroy poor Devin Nunes's reputation and political career, the complaint asserts that any social media promotion of the article, by Lizza, Hearst, and even Lizza's girlfriend, New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi, constituted a "conspiracy" to defame Nunes.

Oh dear, and Yr Wonkette also talked up the article last year. Guess we're in on the whole scheme too. Also, we very maliciously and falsely modified that Fox News chyron up top, so we imagine we'll soon be hearing from Nunes's cows' attorney, too.

[Courthouse News / Nunes v. Lizza / Esquire / Federalist]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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