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Rep. Devin Nunes files $77-million lawsuit, alleging Iowa farm story defamed him

Rep. Devin Nunes
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, questions acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire at a committee hearing last week.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Central Valley Rep. Devin Nunes has filed yet another lawsuit against a major media organization, claiming he was defamed in a magazine story about his family’s Iowa dairy farm.

Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, filed the $77.5-million lawsuit Monday in federal court in Iowa against Esquire publisher Hearst Magazines and former reporter Ryan Lizza. It alleges a Sept. 30, 2018, story about the farm has caused “injury to his good name and professional reputation.”

Nunes has gone after other media outlets in court, filing similar lawsuits this year against Twitter and newspaper publisher McClatchy Co.

In the latest lawsuit, Nunes repeatedly refers to the Esquire story by Lizza, titled “Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret,” as a “hit piece.”

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Lizza, now the chief Washington correspondent for Politico, wrote the story after traveling in August 2018 to Sibley, Iowa, a small farming community 240 miles northwest of Des Moines.

The story focused on Nunes’ parents, brother and other family members who have lived and operated a family dairy farm there for more than a decade, even as Nunes continued to tout his deep roots around his family’s Tulare, Calif., dairy farms.

Lizza said Nunes and his family kept their move from California to Iowa a secret.

The story also delves into the sensitive issue of immigrants living illegally in Iowa and working at the state’s dairy farms.

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Nunes seeks $75 million in compensation for defamation and $2.5 million in punitive damages. He also accuses Lizza and Hearst of conspiracy by promoting and republishing the story millions of times online, via social media and in print.

His lawyer did not immediately respond to a message. Lizza declined to comment, and spokeswomen for Hearst did not immediately respond to email messages.

Nunes sued McClatchy Co. and others in Virginia in April for $150 million, claiming a 2018 story in the Fresno Bee was “character assassination.” In March, he sued Twitter and several users for more than $250 million, accusing them of defamation and negligence. The defendants in that lawsuit include two anonymous parody accounts, “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” The suit filed in Virginia accuses Twitter of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory.”

Nunes’ suit also accuses Twitter of censoring “viewpoints with which it disagrees” and “shadow-banning conservatives.”


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