Media

New York Times defends itself against Project Veritas defamation suit

The New York Times filed its defense Monday against a Project Veritas defamation suit that claims the Times's coverage of a Veritas video was incorrect, defamatory and driven by resentment on the part of the newspaper's reporters.

Project Veritas, a right-wing group known for publishing undercover sting videos, filed the suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Westchester County last November after asking the Times to retract two stories, one by Maggie Astor and another by Tiffany Hsu, about a Project Veritas video accusing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of voter fraud.

The two Times stories claimed, in part, that the Project Veritas video was deceptive and probably part of a "coordinated disinformation campaign."

In its response to the suit, the Times denied most of Project Veritas's claims and allegations, though it did acknowledge some were accurate, including that neither Hsu nor Astor contacted Veritas for their stories.

A spokesperson for the Times did not comment on the lawsuit, its defense against it or questions Project Veritas raised in the suit.

However, in its legal response the Times did list 14 separate causes for defense against the suit.

They included many of the traditional legal defenses used by media outlets, including that Project Veritas can't sue for defamation because some of the "statements at issue" weren't presented as facts but as "opinion, or statements of opinion based on disclosed facts."

In its retraction demands, the suit, and in other public statements, Project Veritas criticized the Times's "opinion" defense.

"Unable to rely on facts, the New York Times' answer, filed [Monday], doubles down on the sad argument that the so-called 'news' it printed, was in fact just 'opinion' passed off as news," said Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe.

In its response, the Times also argued that statements Project Veritas said were defamatory were either "true or substantially true" and Project Veritas can't prove they aren't.

"Substantial truth" is a recognized defense against defamation suits under New York state law.

The Times also said its reporters acted without malice, a defense enshrined in the seminal 1964 case The New York Times v. Sullivan. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that public figures suing for defamation must show the alleged defamer acted with "actual malice."

In its suit however, Veritas specifically claims that Times reporters were upset that Veritas's voter fraud video was posted the same day as a Times expose on former President Trump.

"The New York Times' political reporting team was upset that its much-hyped story about a Republican president's tax returns was upstaged by an independent journalism group's story presenting, in an election year, evidence of systematic and widespread voting fraud by Democrat candidates," Veritas's suit stated.

The Times presented other defenses against the suit including that Veritas didn't suffer any injury from the Times's stories and even if it did, that injury came from Veritas's "own conduct or the conduct."

Veritas often posts stories about Democratic politicians and media organizations and boasts on its website about the numerous retractions its legal team has wrested from other reporters.

The group's reporting has also created national media and political waves. Last year, an ABC News correspondent was suspended after Veritas released a video showing him claiming the network does not care about newsworthy issues.

It also published videos of a "Good Morning America" anchor complaining about that network allegedly nixing her story about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

In February, Twitter permanently suspended a Project Veritas Twitter account, citing repeat violations of the site's policies against publishing private information.

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