Judge Allows, But Trims Devin Nunes’ Defamation Suit Against NBC

Rep. Devin Nunes’ defamation suit against NBC will continue after a New York federal judge trimmed but declined to dismiss the case accusing the media giant of spreading falsities and implying that the California Republican incorrectly handled a package from suspected Russian agents.

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On Monday, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel dismissed all but one sentence from a total of three statements made by Rachel Maddow that Nunes claims are defamatory. But, Judge Castel’s opinion stated Nunes properly pleaded actual malice as to the remaining sentence, which relates to Maddow’s allegation that Nunes did not hand a package from a suspected Russian agent over to the FBI.

In August 2021, Nunes sued NBC in Texas federal court, accusing them of targeting him by repeating false statements insinuating he was shielding important election interference information from the rest of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Nunes, the committee’s ranking member at the time, is seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages from NBC for statements Maddow, who is not individually a party to the suit, made on a March 18, 2021 episode of “The Rachel Maddow Show.” She stated that Nunes received a package from pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach and refused to share the package’s contents with his colleagues or the FBI.

In the suit, Nunes does acknowledge his office received a package in December 2019 from Derkach, whom the U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned for attempting to interfere with the 2020 presidential election, but denies opening its contents. His office immediately notified then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr of the package’s arrival and promptly sent it to the FBI for inspection, he claims.

Nunes alleges Maddow and MSNBC published the false statements, despite knowing these facts, due to “an institutional hostility, hatred, extreme bias, spite and ill-will” by the network against him.

“Viewed as a whole and in the broader context in which they were published, the statements falsely accuse plaintiff of criminal conduct (obstruction of justice and treason), serious breaches of the Code of Conduct and violations of protocols concerning the handling of information that comes to the House Intelligence Committee from foreign sources such as Derkach, concealment and deception, lack of integrity and ethical improprieties,” Nunes states.

He noted that Maddow’s claims were repeated throughout Twitter and other social media platforms, inciting public ridicule, scorn, contempt and prejudice against him.

The sentence in question, spoken by Maddow at the March 2021 show, is: “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.”

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