A lawsuit being brought by former Republican Congressman Devin Nunes will be allowed to move forward after a federal judge determined that Nunes’ allegations that he was defamed by former MSNBC host Rachel Maddow are plausible.
Nunes launched a lawsuit against NBC Universal in 2021 according to The Epoch Times after Maddow said live on air that he had “accepted a package” from a Ukrainian legislator under U.S. Sanctions for connections to Russian intelligence, Andriy Derkach.
Maddow told her MSNBC audience,
“Congressman Nunes has refused to answer questions about what he received from Andriy Derkach. He has refused to show the contents of the package to other members of the intelligence community. He has refused to hand it over to the FBI which is what you should do if you get something from somebody who is sanctioned by the U.S. as a Russian agent.”
She then asked why the GOP had not removed the Congressman as the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes responded to Maddow’s allegations saying that they were not only false but, that the package was never opened and his office in fact did turn over the package to the FBI.
While U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, appeared to side with MBNBC in a large part of his 22-page-long ruling, he did concede the point that MSNBC may have committed defamation when Maddow declared that Nunes had “refused to hand it [the package] over to the FBI.”
Judge Castel wrote in his ruling,
“Had Statement Two merely reported on the DNI Report and noted that Nunes did not answer questions about receipt of package from Derkach, it is doubtful that it would have been actionable. But the Statement also focuses on Nunes’ refusal to turn the material over to the FBI. The Statement in this respect was false, not just technically but also in substance and meaning, and capable of injuring Nunes in his profession.”
Also in a devastating determination, the Judge ruled that Nunes claim that Maddow and MSNBC showed “Actual Malice” was damning.
In Nunes’ complaint, he states: “MSNBC and Maddow had no source that had told them prior to publication of the Statements that Plaintiff had ‘refused’ to turn over the Derkach package to the FBI.'”
Adding that Maddow, “provided no source for the defamatory Statements about Plaintiff because, in truth, Maddow fabricated the Statements, including the story that Plaintiff ‘refused’ to turn over the package to the FBI.”
Judge Castel ruled: “the facts alleged in the Complaint plausibly allege actual malice as to the assertion that Nunes ‘has refused to hand it [e.g., the Derkach package] over to the FBI . . . .’”
Often the most difficult hurdle for a defamation case to overcome is that, particularly with a public official, “actual malice” or the deliberate intent to cause harm knowingly must be proven. Stunningly, in its own motion, NBC Universal may have established this “actual malice,” as the Judge observes, “The speaker [Maddow] did not attribute the statement to any source, including the Politico article submitted by NBCU on this motion.”
In other words, even though Judge Castel ruled in favor of NBC Universal on several of the claims related to this case, the single one claim he upheld as “plausible” could prove devastating.