U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Congressman Nunes alleges CNN, Daily Beast ‘committed crimes’ in reporting, says will sue

Incident Details

Andrew Harrer/Pool via REUTERS

Ranking House Intelligence Committee Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) participates in an impeachment inquiry on Nov. 21. A few days later on Fox News, Nunes outlined his plans to sue two more media organizations for their reporting.

— Andrew Harrer/Pool via REUTERS
April 14, 2022 - Update

Federal appeals court rejects Nunes lawsuit against CNN

A defamation lawsuit filed by former California Congressman Devin Nunes against CNN was rejected by a federal appeals court in New York on April 14, 2022.

Nunes filed the lawsuit against the cable news company in 2019, claiming it published false claims of his involvement in efforts to obtain information from Ukraine officials on Hunter Biden, son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.

In February 2021, U.S. District Judge Laura Swain ruled that California law applied to the case because CNN published the article in multiple states.

Under California statute, a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit against a media company has 20 days to request a retraction. The statute holds that a request must be made in writing and must specify the allegedly libelous statements that should be corrected. In rejecting the lawsuit, Swain wrote that Nunes failed to demand a retraction within the appropriate time frame.

U.S. Circuit Judge William J. Nardini affirmed the lower court’s decision, writing that “Nunes undisputedly failed to comply with that statute or to adequately allege special damages.”

December 3, 2019 - Update

After calling reporting criminal, Congressman Nunes sues CNN for $435 million

California Congressman Devin Nunes filed a lawsuit against CNN on Dec. 3, 2019. The suit seeks $435 million in damages and claims that the outlet defamed him last month when it published a “demonstrably false hit piece,” reported The Washington Post.

On Nov. 22, CNN published a story alleging Nunes was involved in seeking information on Joe Biden’s son from Ukraine’s former prosecutor-general. When asked about this possible involvement in an interview on Fox News a few days later, Nunes responded by saying he was going to sue CNN and The Daily Beast, which also published the information. The current suit only names CNN, and mentions CNN reporter Vicky Ward and anchor Chris Cuomo in the complaint.

CNN declined to comment on the suit, according to the Post and Courthouse News Service.

November 24, 2019

California Congressman Devin Nunes said that he plans to sue CNN and The Daily Beast for defamation during an interview on Fox News on Nov. 24, 2019.

Host Maria Bartiromo asked the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee whether he had met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Austria in 2018, as had been reported by CNN and Daily Beast over the weekend.

Nunes did not answer the question, and instead dismissed the articles as “fake news” and alleged that it is “very likely” that the outlets committed crimes while reporting the story. He also said he intends to take the outlets to federal court after Thanksgiving, arguing that it’s the only way to hold the "corrupt" media accountable.

"So we hope that CNN and Daily Beast will cooperate with the court," Nunes said. "They should comply with the subpoenas once we file this and go through different depositions. It should be fun."

A spokesperson from Daily Beast told The Hill that they “stand by our reporting and are happy to defend it.” The Hill said CNN declined to comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker will document any resulting subpoenas under our Subpoena/Legal Order category.

Nunes has pursued libel suits against the media before. In April, he targeted The McClatchy Company, which owns The Fresno Bee, in a $150 million defamation lawsuit, arguing that its reporting on the congressman constituted “character assassination.” According to The Hill, Nunes also has an ongoing $75 million lawsuit against journalist Ryan Lizza and Hearst Magazines filed in October.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].