A federal court on Wednesday reinstated a defamation lawsuit that was filed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over a magazine story about his relatives, coming months after a lower court rejected it.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lower court incorrectly sided with Ryan Lizza in Nunes’ defamation suit. Lizza wrote a 2018 article for Esquire that alleged Nunes’ family members moved their farming operations to Iowa and employed illegal aliens.
After Nunes filed the lawsuit against Lizza and Esquire publisher Hearst Magazine Media, the journalist posted a link to his story on Twitter in November 2019. By doing so, the appeals court argued that he essentially republished it even after the lawsuit was filed. Lizza joined Politico in August 2019 as its chief Washington correspondent and still is employed there.
“The complaint here 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,” Judge Steven Colloton wrote in an opinion (pdf). He was joined by Judges Lavenski Smith and Ralph Erickson.
The judge noted that “Lizza tweeted the article in November 2019 after Nunes filed this lawsuit and denied the article’s implication,” adding that “pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in ‘the purposeful avoidance of the truth.’”
And the ruling added that “based on the article’s presentation of facts, we think the complaint plausibly alleges that a reasonable reader could draw the implication that Representative Nunes conspired to hide the farm’s use of undocumented labor,” further stating that the article also contains allegations “about the supposed conspiracy to hide the farm’s move.”
Such a claim, Colloton added in the ruling, could “be politically damaging to a Member of Congress” like Nunes, who has publicly expressed support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
In August 2020, Judge C.J. Williams dismissed Nunes’ lawsuit and said he failed to provide evidence that Lizza’s article contained false and defamatory statements about him.
“The article is written in a first-person perspective and includes numerous instances of Lizza’s subjective mental impressions. This weighs against the statements being reasonably construed as statements of fact as opposed to Lizza’s characterizations or opinions,” the judge wrote.
Nunes is seeking $75 million in compensation for defamation and $2.5 million in punitive damages.
Nunes also filed a lawsuit against Twitter last year alleging defamation and negligence for two anonymous parody accounts.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Lizza’s lawyers for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.