On August 3rd, Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) filed a libel suit against NBCUniversal and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow over comments she made in March about his relationship with a Ukrainian lawmaker and suspected Russian spy.
Last Spring, Maddow ran a segment in which she discussed an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election. Among the report’s findings was that Rep. Nunes had been mailed a package from a suspected Russian agent, Andriy Derkach.
“Congressman Nunes has refused to answer questions about what he received from Andriy Derkach. He has refused to show the contents of the package to other members of the intelligence community. He has refused to hand it over to the FBI, which is something you should do if you get a package from somebody who is sanctioned by the US government as a Russian agent,” Maddow said.
In his lawsuit, Nunes claims that he had given Derkach’s package to the FBI and that Maddow made these claims without reaching out to him for comment.
“During the broadcast on March 18, 2021, MSNBC provided no source for the defamatory Statements about Plaintiff because, in truth, Maddow fabricated the Statements, including the story that Plaintiff ‘refused’ to turn over the package to the FBI. The Statements were a product of Maddow’s imagination. She made them up out of whole cloth in order to impute intentional wrongdoing to Plaintiff. Although Maddow made it appear as if she had direct knowledge of facts, she did not have one shred of evidence to support the Statements,” the complaint reads.
Nunes filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. He does not give a specific number for damages, but is asking for a jury to determine a suitable amount for the “insult, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental suffering and injury to his reputation.”
Among the attorneys Nunes hired to help him in his case against Maddow is Steven Biss. Biss, who has represented Nunes in several other defamation suits, was sanctioned in May by a federal judge in Maryland for filing a “frivolous” defamation lawsuit on behalf of a Nunes aide against CNN.
Nunes is notorious for filing frivolous defamation lawsuits against his critics. In just a 12 month time period between— March 2019 and November 2020, the Congressman filed seven libel lawsuits. Two of his lawsuits, one against The Washington Post and another against CNN, were dismissed after judges found that Nunes’ lawyers had failed to satisfy the defamation standard.