California

Devin Nunes serves McClatchy with lawsuit four months after announcing complaint

Devin Nunes sues Twitter, account called ‘Devin Nunes’ Cow’

Republican Representative Devin Nunes of Tulare, California, is suing Twitter and parody accounts, including one called 'Devin Nunes' Cow.'
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Republican Representative Devin Nunes of Tulare, California, is suing Twitter and parody accounts, including one called 'Devin Nunes' Cow.'

Rep. Devin Nunes on Monday served the McClatchy company with a lawsuit he announced four months ago alleging that news articles it published defamed him in the months leading up to his closer-than-usual re-election in 2018

Nunes, R-Tulare, filed the lawsuit in Virginia’s Albemarle County Circuit Court on April 8. It followed a similar lawsuit he filed in Virginia against San Francisco-based Twitter, a Republican political strategist and two parody social media accounts written by anonymous authors.

Nunes also is suing four Californians who last year sought to prevent him from calling himself a farmer on ballots sent to California voters. Nunes won the challenge and was described on ballots as a congressman and farmer.

Nunes’ district is located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where McClatchy publishes The Fresno Bee. McClatchy does not publish a newspaper in Virginia.

The lawsuit alleges that McClatchy and The Fresno Bee engaged in a “scheme to defame plaintiff and destroy his reputation.”

It asks McClatchy to scrub certain articles about him from the internet, mainly one about his partnership in Alpha Omega Winery that was the subject of a lawsuit alleging one of its employees was compelled to work at a yacht party that included cocaine and prostitutes.

Nunes did not request a correction to the story and did not respond at the time when the reporter asked him for comment.

Nunes’ lawyer, Steven Biss, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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No court hearing has been scheduled for the McClatchy case, according to the Virginia court website.

The first hearing for Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter is scheduled for Friday. Twitter has asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that Virginia is not the proper venue for the case.

Nunes has said numerous times on conservative talk shows that he plans to file at least three more lawsuits.

McClatchy in a written statement called Nunes’ lawsuit against the news company “a baseless attack on local journalism and a free press.” Last fall, Nunes criticized The Fresno Bee’s coverage of him in broadcast ads and in a 40-page, magazine-style campaign mailer.

McClatchy, like Twitter, has taken issue with the lawsuit being filed in Virginia rather than California, where there are more established laws discouraging frivolous lawsuits.

“While Mr. Nunes filed his lawsuit in the state of Virginia, California law applies to this case and clearly outlines the steps required to demand corrections in any instance of alleged libel. Mr. Nunes has not once availed himself of this statute by demanding a published correction to any statement made about him,” the McClatchy statement reads. “He did however find the time to produce a video and a 40-page mailer distributed to constituents attacking The Fresno Bee and its coverage of the Alpha Omega winery case.”

Nunes has served in Congress since 2003 and gained a national reputation as one of President Donald Trump’s top allies in the House of Representatives.

Fresno prosecutor Andrew Janz ran an unexpectedly strong challenge to Nunes in 2018, raising more than $9 million. Nunes defeated Janz by 5 percentage points.

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 20, 2019 to include comment from McClatchy.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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