Creative Commons Flickr photo of Sean Hannity pointing to his own head.

Sean Hannity’s Lawsuit Is Moot, His Bluff Is Rebuffed And Devin Nunes’ Cow Is Laughing

 

by Richard Cameron


 

Sue happy Sean

College dropout, Sean Hannity’s feelings are hurt. Conservative tears, including his, were shed, due to column published recently in the New York Times (March 22, March 31, April 18), written by Ben Smith, Kara Swisher and Ginia Bellafante, respectfully, or in Hannity’s estimation, disrespectfully. 

In the series of articles, the writers presented a narrative that argued that Hannity played a leading role in Fox News’ reporting on the emerging coronavirus pandemic, that minimized the public health risk and disseminated misleading information.

Hannity’s attorney, Charles Harder alleges the Times’ reporting is “false and defamatory, and extremely damaging.”  If the Times does not “retract, correct and apologize” for the aforementioned columns, the letter says that Hannity will be left with “no alternative but to consider instituting immediate legal proceedings.”

While Hannity and his attorney (who is also under the employ of the Trump campaign), take exception to the Times’ contention that Hannity’s comments on his program led his viewers to not take COVID-19 with the seriousness it necessitates, (being it is a potentially deadly disease), there is a body of documented analysis that buttresses the Times’ premise. 

It is a study written by media analysts Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott . The authors arrived at a number of conclusions concerning Hannity’s presentation of the virus outbreak, but among the most interesting among them, is their discovery that there was a marked difference between Hannity’s approach to coronavirus and that of fellow politico, Tucker Carlson’s:

“Greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight leads to a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” they write. “A one-standard deviation increase in relative viewership of Hannity relative to Carlson is associated with approximately 30 percent more COVID-19 cases on March 14, and 21 percent more COVID-19 deaths on March 28.”

For its part, the “Grey Lady”, and it’s legal staff, see no merit in Sean Hannity’s demand for retraction or his threat of litigation, which they view as having no serious legal basis.

Anyone looking at this on the face of it, without the presuppositions that go along with being an ardent addict of Fox News generally, and Sean Hannity more specifically, has to ask themselves the question, “does Charles Harder and his client, really not understand the law as it pertains to journalism?”

And that is a valid question to ask, because American jurisprudence, since the very inception of the United States, has interpreted the 1st Amendment to give wide latitude to news publishers in all forms – and rarely, have the courts ever issued an order requiring the publisher to amend or retract an article, particularly any news reporting that contains elements of opinion.

The best and most prominent example of this is the notorious case from 1988, Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell, that went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Hannity’s complaint on the face of it, would meet an almost certain fate of being subject to summary judgment (dismissal) in virtually any court it was filed in. 

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Charles Harder is a busy boy indeed. He is juggling several libel / defamation lawsuits for Donald Trump on behalf of Trump’s floundering presidential campaign.

One of them is against the New York Times, in reference to an opinion piece “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo,” written by Max Frenkel and published in the newspaper on March 27, 2019, in which the writer outlined, (as is obvious by the title), the pretty clear case that even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller declined to file an indictment against Trump on ‘collusion’, there was a considerable degree of circumstantial evidence indicating it .

Harder in his brief to the New York State court, alleges that the newspaper published accusations of collusion, “knowing them to be false, and knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers, because of The Times’ extreme bias against and animosity toward the Campaign, and The Times’ exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020.” 

More recent is another case from Harder, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that The Washington Post “published false and defamatory statements of and concerning the Campaign in two articles published in June 2019.” 

Ever since Donald Trump signaled the virtue of curbing speech, when he tweeted that the libel laws should be “tightened up” and on another occasion stated, “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness,” – Republican elected officials and right wing media personalities have decided that free speech is damaging to their delicate sensibilities. 

Devin Nunes has a cow, really. No, I mean he really does.

None more prominently than House member Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has, during Trump’s entire term, played the role of Donald Trump’s ever reliable fluffer. 

Nunes has defamation lawsuits in several courts. The premise behind them is laughable, but he got to first base with them, by having his attorney shop for court venues in states that have weak legislative safeguards against SLAPP lawsuits, – lawsuits with little to no actual legal merit, but are filed by big pocketed plaintiffs to discourage critics. 

Cow owner Nunes has, for example, a lawsuit filed in Virginia against Twitter and co-defendent, Republican political/communications strategist Liz Mair (a Nunes and Trump critic) and her consulting firm, Mair Strategies LLC., asking for $250 million in “reputational damage.”

The antagonists that are asserted to be the proximate cause of Nunes’ shame and emotional distress, are “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.  Devin’s cow is vicious and deadly. Of course, if you ever take a good look at the conditions on dairy farms like the one’s Nunes owns, you’d probably imagine if you were a cow, you’d not be his biggest fan, either.

While we’re on that subject, Nunes filed a lawsuit against Esquire magazine, for informing readers that Nunes secretly moved his dairy farm out of California to Iowa and is employing undocumented workers while violating labor laws. That, you see, would not be flattering for his rock ribbed Trumpublican constituents in Fresno to discover. 

Twitter page of pseudonymous twitter user "Devin Nunes'Cow"

The litigation filed by Steven S. Biss of Charlottesville, Virginia (I know, right?), is a good read if you are in need of a good laugh.

Biss summarizes the basis of  Nunes’ claim for damages as, “Defendants’ insulting words, in the context and under the circumstances in which they were written and tweeted, tend to violence and breach of the peace. Like any reasonable person, Nunes was humiliated, disgusted, angered and provoked by the Defendants’ insulting words.” 

He could have whittled it down to “Devin has a boo-boo and it’s all Twitter’s and Liz Mair’s fault.”

I suppose I should be grateful that I am not spending every waking hour in court, given the fact that I insult countless people on a daily basis. It’s compulsive with me, when coming in contact with incredibly ignorant people.  Be that as it may, Mr. Biss also tried to strong arm a county official in Nunes’ district into disclosing the identity of some other of Nunes’s suspected tormentors, telling him:

“As you well know, for over two years, Mr. Nunes has been maliciously harassed, stalked, bullied online, threatened and egregiously defamed on Twitter by the user or users who post day and night, through the anonymous Twitter account, @DevinCow.”

Eventually, Sean Hannity, Devin Nunes and their daddy, Donald Trump are all going to have to break out the Kleenex, buy a triple layer booty pillow and go to therapy, because their SLAPP happy attorneys are not going to make the mean people go away.

We’re not going away because monumental case law like New York Times v. Sullivan 1964have our back. Not only are we not going away, we’re going to make their lives even more miserable. 

If you are that auto insurance company that shall not be named, you save people 15 percent or more on their car insurance; if you are journalists exercising  their Constitutional rights under the 1st Amendment, you “maliciously harass, stalk, bully online, threaten (their power) and egregiously defame” corrupt politicians and media figures – that’s what you do.      

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