Court transcripts show that McClatchy, the now-bankrupt newspaper chain, mischaracterized proceedings in a lawsuit that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has brought against social media giant Twitter.
The headline and framing of an article from the correspondent for the newspaper who covers Nunes and Congress implies that his lawsuit is running into significant hurdles, but transcripts of the proceedings demonstrate that in reality Nunes’ lawyer is simply seeking court action to compel the social media company to cooperate with discovery efforts.
A June 12 piece from McClatchy’s Kate Irby was headlined: “Devin Nunes’ attorney says he’s at ‘dead end’ in quest to reveal identity of Twitter cow.”
The opening paragraphs of the article make it appear as though Steven Biss—the lawyer for Nunes, who is suing Twitter over various fake accounts created to attack him—is in trouble in the lawsuit in court and not getting anywhere. Irby wrote:
The attorney for Rep. Devin Nunes said on Friday that he is at a ‘dead end’ in attempting to identify anonymous people who criticize the California Republican on Twitter as he asked a Virginia judge to hold the company responsible for social media criticism. Nunes, R-Tulare, filed a lawsuit against Twitter last year alleging he was defamed on Twitter by Republican political strategist Liz Mair and the writers behind anonymous social media accounts that call themselves ‘Devin Nunes’ Cow’ and ‘Devin Nunes’ Mom.’ Nunes’ attorney and lawyers for Twitter were in court on the social media company’s motion to dismiss the case. The San Francisco-based company argues it is protected from lawsuits like Nunes’ under a federal law that says social media companies like Twitter are not liable for what people post on their platforms if they don’t have a hand in creating the content.
Irby does not admit until the very end of her article the context of the “dead end” quote. The reason why he said he is at a “dead end” is because he cannot serve lawsuits upon the creators and operators of the anonymously-run fake accounts attacking Nunes unless Twitter stopped protecting their identities. The ending of her articles contains just some of the context of this:
Biss argued that Twitter must release information about the accounts’ authors in order for the case to go forward, because he doesn’t know the identities of the anonymous authors. Without knowing their identities, he could not serve them with lawsuits, he said.
“We’re trying to figure out who they are, and we read the comments on Twitter, as painful as it is, we do that every day,” Biss said. “But we’re at a dead end.”
But the full transcript of the proceeding, obtained by Breitbart News, shows that while Nunes’ attorney Steven Biss did use the phrase “dead end,” in the very next sentence he was asking the judge to compel Twitter to get around that problem.
“I would ask the Court to compel Twitter to respond to the remaining aspects of the discovery in this case. And there aren’t that many of them,” Biss said in the proceeding, per the transcript.
The 43-page transcript’s next and final page shows Biss handing to the judge the list of items he is seeking in discovery from Twitter, and agreeing to narrow that list down to just three items so that “will allow me hopefully to get a bead on who DevinCow is and where he lives so I can go ahead and serve him with a copy of the lawsuit.”
The transcript then ends before the judge concludes what he intends to do on this matter, as it remains under consideration if he will force Twitter to comply with the part of the discovery push that would reveal the identity of the anonymous person or persons behind the Twitter accounts attacking Nunes.
The fake narrative picked up steam across the media after McClatchy’s story, as other outlets like The Hill newspaper and NewsWeek ran with even more incorrect stories based on Irby’s original false narrative. “Nunes’s hunt for Twitter cow’s identity at ‘dead end,’ attorney says,” was the headline in The Hill for a piece that similarly missed the context of Biss’s “dead end” comment and falsely attributed it to an interview between Biss and the McClatchy newspaper the Fresno Bee. Biss has not conducted an interview with the Fresno Bee, and this comment was made in court not in a press interview.
Newsweek’s article—again, based on the original false narrative from Irby in McClatchy—took the falsehood even further, falsely stating in its opening paragraph that the judge “threw out” a “subpoena” from Nunes. The judge has made no such decision at this time, as he is currently determining whether to grant Biss’s request to compel Twitter to comply with his discovery request to provide the information that would reveal the identity of the anonymous trolls attacking him. There also have been no “subpoenas” issued at all in this hearing, which makes Newsweek’s story even more incorrect.
Irby and McClatchy seem overly focused on anything Nunes says or does, including various lawsuits the California Republican and the ranking member of the U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence has filed. Since the beginning of the year, Irby—the California congressional correspondent for the newspaper chain—has filed just over 60 stories for McClatchy. Over a third of them, 23 in total, are about Nunes—including 15 separate pieces focused on his lawsuits which include suits against various media outlets like CNN and against McClatchy itself. In the few months leading up to the last time Breitbart News published about Irby and McClatchy when it comes to Nunes, in October 2019, half of the stories she had written were about him.
Irby frequently frames her coverage of Nunes as negative, as well. For instance, when covering his lawsuit against CNN, she wrote that a judge’s decision to move it from Virginia to New York was a “setback.” But she did not cover when the new judge in New York rejected a motion from CNN to stay discovery in that lawsuit.
In fact, all of the lawsuits that Nunes has filed in recent months against leftists and media outlets and social media giants remain active except one: the lawsuit Nunes had filed against McClatchy, which essentially went defunct because McClatchy declared bankruptcy literally the day after a judge granted Nunes discovery in that lawsuit.
But Irby has still gone forward with a number of pieces about all this—including two hit pieces she published attacking Biss, Nunes’ attorney, the same attorney Nunes retained to sue McClatchy. Irby even wrote a whole story questioning whether Nunes was doing something untoward to pay for the lawsuits, in which she without any evidence speculates how the California congressman is affording what are likely expensive legal battles against these media and tech and political titans.
Irby even baselessly speculated in a Twitter thread in November last year that Nunes had been behind another anonymous account putting out positive information about him, just like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has been doing for years under the name “Pierre Delecto”:
There are some suspicions that Nunes or someone close to him was running an anonymous Twitter account to defend him that was deleted sometime last night (it’s possible Twitter suspended it, unclear right now) a la Mitt Romney with Pierre Delecto. A thread.
— Kate Irby (@kateirby) November 11, 2019
Irby was quickly debunked by others in media, and admitted the theory was not strong just a few tweets later:
— Kate Irby (@kateirby) November 11, 2019
What’s more, as the company was facing financial calamity ahead of its eventual bankruptcy declaration, McClatchy sought to shift its business model to incorporate foundation and nonprofit funding of local newsrooms around the country. As Breitbart News reported last year, an editor for the Fresno Bee—one of the flagship newspapers in the chain through which McClatchy attempted to spearhead this new revenue lifeblood source—actually admitted that the newspaper’s fake hit pieces on Nunes had driven interest from potential funders of the nonprofit and foundation structures more so than honest news coverage of California politicians had.