A federal appeals court Wednesday revived Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) claim that a reporter who tweeted out a story the lawmaker had sued over amounted to libel, Politico reported. Nunes had sued Ryan Lizza over an Esquire story that detailed his family moving their farming operations to Iowa, rejecting an implication that they had employed undocumented workers. The court rejected Nunes’ defamation claim, but in its written opinion on Wednesday, the judges said Lizza’s tweet resharing the article after the suit was brought reasonably amounted to republishing it. That action is “suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in ‘the purposeful avoidance of the truth,’” the court wrote.
Lizza declined to comment to Politico, where he now serves as a Washington correspondent, but a First Amendment expert said the claim could potentially indicate anyone who shared the story with knowledge of the suit could face legal action. “He’s not trying to win money from these lawsuits. He just wants the pain of litigation to deter other critics from writing about him,” Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University, told Politico. “It’s an intimidation tactic that can make a person’s life miserable for a while, and he’s relying on that to curb honest criticism of his duties as an elected official.”