Washington Post Article Published With ‘Reckless Disregard of the Truth:’ Judge

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 14, 2021 Updated: August 14, 2021

The Washington Post published an article last year with a “reckless disregard of the truth,” a federal judge said this week.

The article primarily dealt with the selection of Michael Ellis to be general counsel of the National Security Agency, but included portions about Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Ellis is a former chief of staff for Nunes.

The article, penned by Ellen Nakashima of the Post, stated that Nunes in March 2019 “was given access at the White House to intelligence files that Nunes believed would buttress Trump’s baseless claims of the Obama administration spying on Trump Tower.”

Nunes sued the paper, alleging Nakashima and the Post defamed him, and didn’t properly update the defamatory statements in a correction.

Nunes said he never believed that the Obama administration spied on Trump Tower, which is in New York.

“Nakashima made up facts out of whole cloth, including that Plaintiff ‘believed’ that ‘intelligence files’ at the White House would ‘buttress his baseless claims of the Obama administration spying on Trump Tower.’ Nakashima did not have one shred of evidence to support her statement about Plaintiff’s ‘belief’ because, in truth, she completely fabricated the accusation,” his lawsuit states.

In fact, in March 2017, the Post reported that Nunes challenged Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.

The paper said in its motion to dismiss that its correction erased any claims to malice, but U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols rejected that argument.

“A newspaper’s own prior (and correct) reporting that is inconsistent with its later (and incorrect) reporting could certainly give the paper reason to seriously doubt the truth of its later publication—just as a source’s pre-publication recantation may be evidence that a publisher had reason to doubt the source’s original claims,” Nichols, a Trump nominee, wrote in his Aug. 11 decision.

“Later in this case, Nunes will have to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, even in light of the corrections the Post did issue, it published its statements with actual malice. But for now, he has sufficiently pleaded that, in November 2020, the Post published its article with at least reckless disregard of the truth that it had previously reported,” he added.

The ruling rejected the Post’s attempt to dismiss Nunes’ complaint.

That means the case will move forward instead of being thrown out.

“This is a major step toward holding irresponsible media outlets accountable for spreading fake news,” Nunes told The Epoch Times in an email. “We now get to bring the Washington Post into discovery to see how they put together this phony story. These are no longer news outlets, they’re Pravda-style propaganda artists and character assassins, and the courts are our best hope to force some sense of responsibility on them.”

A spokeswoman for the paper declined to comment.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.