A federal judge in Iowa on Tuesday tossed out a defamation lawsuit that former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed in 2019 against reporter Ryan Lizza over an article he wrote for Esquire in 2018 about the Nunes family dairy farm, NuStar Farms, and why it had quietly relocated to Iowa from California. Nunes, who left Congress last year to head up former President Donald Trump's social media company, had sought $77 million from Lizza and Hearst Magazines, Esquire's publisher.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams, a Trump appointee, ruled that Nunes had neither shown he had been harmed by the article nor that Lizza's reporting on NuStar's heavy reliance on undocumented immigrants was false. In fact, Williams wrote in his 101-page opinion, "the assertion that NuStar knowingly used undocumented labor is substantially, objectively true."
Williams wrote that 243 of the 319 NuStar employees the court had run past the Social Security Administration had birth dates, names, and Social Security Numbers that matched no SSA records. He also pointed out that NuStar has never used the Homeland Security Department's e-Verify program to check on the status of its farm workers, and that Nunes had called e-Verify a failed program in a deposition while saying publicly it works "really, really well" and should be mandatory.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The NuStar libel suit was "part of a flurry of at least 10 lawsuits Nunes filed beginning in 2019 against media organizations, journalists, and critics he accused of defaming him," Politico reports. "The most famous suit sought $250 million from Twitter," political strategist Liz Mair, and the pseudonymous Twitter accounts "Devin Nunes' Mom" and "Devin Nunes' Cow." A judge in Virginia dismissed that lawsuit in 2020 and 2022.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.