News organizations, journalists ask court to review decision on Nunes lawsuit

A group of leading news organizations are throwing their support behind a legal effort to challenge a judge's ruling in favor of Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin Nunes retirement move seen as sign of power shift in GOP On The Money — Schumer, McConnell clear path to debt deal MORE (R-Calf.), who is suing reporter Ryan Lizza over a 2018 story in Esquire about Nunes' family farm.

A defamation suit Nunes brought against Lizza was initially tossed out by a judge in August of 2020. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in September that because Lizza had tweeted out a link to the story in question after the congressman had filed his initial defamation suit, he had essentially "republished" it — reviving the lawmaker's libel claim. 

The story, titled "Milking the System," detailed the Republicans' family’s dairy operation in Iowa and alleged his family sold their California farmland in 2006 and “secretly” moved the operation to Sibley, Iowa, a community that frequently relied on labor from undocumented immigrants. 

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In the brief filed this week, more than two dozen news organizations including Fox News, the New York Times and Vox Media argued the judge's September ruling sets a precedent that "could create havoc for not just news publishers, but all distributors of content." 

"The panel’s holding that Nunes could state a claim for defamation based on a tweet that hyperlinked to—but did not repeat the substance of—an allegedly defamatory article threatens to upend long-standing legal principles governing the dissemination of news and information in the Internet age," the news organizations wrote in the brief.

"Hyperlinks are essential to the dissemination of information today," they added, noting journalists on social media "use hyperlinks to direct readers to their published work and the published work of others, and to engage with the public about that reporting." 

The group requested a rehearing of Nunes' case against Lizza. Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In their opinion last month, the 8th Circuit judges wrote that Nunes' complaint "adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article."

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"The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth,'" it added. 

In February, a federal judge rejected a libel lawsuit Nunes filed against CNN regarding their reporting on his efforts to dig up dirt on now-President Biden regarding dealings with Ukraine.

Late last year, Nunes had a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post thrown out after he sued the Post for reporting intelligence official Shelby Pierson told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had "developed a preference" for former President Trump.