U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist threatened with perjury charges by member of Congress after testimony

Incident Details

April 13, 2023

Journalist Matt Taibbi was threatened with the possibility of perjury charges in an April 13, 2023, letter from congresswoman Stacey Plaskett who alleged he lied under oath when testifying before Congress.

Taibbi gave testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government on March 9 after he obtained and published the “Twitter Files,” a collection of internal communications shedding light on how the social media company made content moderation decisions before and after the 2020 election.

Plaskett, a Democrat, wrote in the letter that information “foundational” to Taibbi’s testimony had been found to be false or misleading. After flagging multiple such instances, Plaskett called on Taibbi to correct his statements and provide responses to supplementary questions, including about his communications with Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Plaskett then reminded Taibbi of his oath under penalty of perjury, writing “providing false information is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.”

Taibbi, who did not respond to a request for comment, published a response to the letter outlining why Plaskett’s accusations are themselves misleading.

“I’m not going to lie, it frightens me a little that I even have to offer this defense,” he wrote.

Freedom of the Press Foundation, which oversees the operation of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, condemned the threat of prosecution as an intimidation tactic.

“It’s disturbing that a member of Congress would attempt to threaten a journalist with imprisonment for summarizing his reporting during a congressional hearing,” said Advocacy Director Seth Stern. “Whatever one may think of Taibbi or his reporting on the Twitter files, baselessly threatening to imprison journalists is reprehensible, no matter if the threats are from Democratic members of Congress or Donald Trump.”

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