Cheers to the Visalia Times-Delta editorial board for calling Rep. Devin Nunes’  $150 million defamation lawsuit against The Fresno Bee what it is: “poppycock.”

Portrait of GV Wire News Director/Columnist Bill McEwen

Opinion

Bill McEwen

Many outlets have characterized The Bee as Nunes’ “hometown newspaper.” But the Times-Delta publishes in Tulare County, where the congressman resides. It is truly Nunes’ hometown paper.

In addition, long after Nunes stopped talking to The Bee, he and his staffers continued to interact with the Times-Delta.

Nunes Tries to Use Times-Delta to Support His Lawsuit

Interestingly, when Nunes talked to Fox News about his defamation claim against The Bee, he pointed out that the Times-Delta didn’t report on the winery lawsuit that spawned The Bee’s  “A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event” story.

Clearly, Nunes was trying to use the Times-Delta’s decision not to pursue that story to buttress his lawsuit against The Bee. Guess what? Editors make judgment calls daily based on news value, the facts, and resources.  That’s one of the beauties of a constitutionally protected independent press. A story that goes unreported by one outlet is covered by another.

Given Nunes’ thin skin when it comes to criticism, you must wonder if the Times-Delta goes on his enemies list.

Nunes Deserves an Oscar for His Victim Portrayal

One of Nunes’ common themes is that he’s the victim of a relentless assault by the mainstream media. That’s laughable on its face and belittles his immense power. He is a congressman and a trusted confidant of  President Donald Trump.

But Nunes plays the victim card quite well, and he’s using it to raise a ton of money. His lawsuits against Twitter and The Bee are more tools to energize Republicans ahead of the 2020 elections.

Nunes told the Washington Examiner earlier this month he had raised about $1.1 million for his 2020 re-election bid in the year’s first quarter. That haul gives him more than $5 million cash on hand.

Photo of U.S. Constitution and American flag

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Nunes’ Attempt to Silence the Free, Democratic Press

The congressman has every right to play on the emotions of supporters in his fundraising efforts. All’s fair in politics, the saying goes.

Forty years ago, I proudly worked in the Times-Delta newsroom. I am proud of its editorial board today. It stands strong in defense of a free press, holds to account the hometown congressman, and uses facts to shred his frivolous lawsuit.

But, as the Times-Delta editorial opined, “have no doubt: If Nunes’ $150 million defamation lawsuit against the Fresno Bee is successful, the chilling effect on the unfettered publication of local news would be felt across the nation.

“The notion of a politician or powerful public figure racing to court to sue a newspaper because a story raises uncomfortable questions they’d rather not answer is an existential threat to the long-term health of a free and democratic press.”

One of the key facts puncturing Nunes’ claims: He’s never sought a correction of The Bee’s story.

“What’s even more egregious about the Tulare Congressman’s legal claim alleging McClatchy defamed him is that Nunes has never challenged the facts of the alleged libelous story,” said the Times-Delta editorial.

Times-Delta Does What Good Newspapers Do

Forty years ago, I proudly worked in the Times-Delta newsroom. I am proud of its editorial board today. It stands strong in defense of a free press, holds to account the hometown congressman, and uses facts to shred his frivolous lawsuit.

That’s what good newspapers do.

3 Responses

  1. Rachel Youdelman

    Bravo. Thanks for clearly affirming our 1st-amendment guarantee of a free press. Nunes’ attempts to attack news sources which don’t defer to his appalling demands for submission will thankfully never hold up in court. I’m visiting Germany now, where there are reminders everywhere of the Nazis’ attempts to stifle and jail political opponents, including journalists. The German people & progressive cultures over the world have learned from history; Nunes has not–he is a thin-skinned, petulant, malicious fascist who must be held accountable for violating his oath of office.

    Reply

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