Who is Devin Nunes?
The morning after U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes announced that he is suing McClatchy, alleging defamation in a lawsuit focusing on the social media reach of the Sacramento, California, company’s publications and reporters, tens of thousands of users are criticizing Nunes via the social media platform Nunes is suing in a separate suit.
Nunes’ 43-page lawsuit alleged that headlines about a 2016 lawsuit against a Napa Valley winery called Alpha Omega — in which Nunes is an investor — were “part of a scheme to defame Nunes.”
McClatchy operates 30 newsrooms across the nation, including The Fresno Bee and its sister Bee papers in Sacramento and in Modesto.
One of those headlines has resurfaced as a Twitter hashtag: “#YachtCocaineProstitutes” was trending, with nearly 70,000 tweets posted by 10 a.m. Tuesday. Many of the tweets appeared to be used in a wide variety of contexts, but many of the most widely circulated tweets named Nunes or tagged his official Twitter account.
The hashtag references a Fresno Bee headline: “A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event.”
“It traveled through social media like wildfire,” Nunes’ suit alleges, adding that “McClatchy’s words obviously had their desired effect – they linked Nunes to ‘underage prostitutes’ and ‘cocaine.’”
“Yacht/Cocaine/Prostitutes article was republished online and retweeted and posted on the Internet hundreds of thousands of times,” Nunes’ lawsuit claims.
The story in question was published May 2018 and centers on a 2016 lawsuit filed following a fundraising event held by Alpha Omega Winery on a yacht. The 2015 event was a charity cruise on the San Francisco Bay.
An Alpha Omega employee alleged in that lawsuit that about two dozen of the winery’s top investors were openly using what appeared to be cocaine, and alleged that she could hear sexual activity happening with apparent sex workers. The men then “lined the prostitutes up on the deck of the yacht, reviewed out loud and in detail the sexual services performed and paid them in front of Plaintiff,” the 2016 lawsuit alleges, as reported by The Fresno Bee last year.
A representative of Alpha Omega in emailed statements to The Fresno Bee said no one aboard the yacht had connections to the winery or its owners, and distanced Nunes from the 2016 lawsuit.
The latest lawsuit also accuses Virginia political communications consultant Liz Mair of defaming Nunes. In response, Mair has changed her Twitter username to “BeingSuedByDevinNunes.”
Nunes is suing McClatchy and Mair, seeking $150 million. Earlier this year, Nunes filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and a parody account called Devin Nunes’ Cow, in which he also alleges McClatchy and The Fresno Bee of engaging in a “scheme to defame Plaintiff.”
“With the limited opportunity we have had to review this claim, it is wholly without merit and we stand behind the strong reporting of The Fresno Bee,” a McClatchy spokeswoman said in a statement Monday night, addressing the most recent lawsuit by Nunes.
Nunes announced the lawsuit Monday night while appearing on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. The suit was filed in Virginia circuit court in Charlottesville.