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Project Veritas Takes CNN to 11th Circuit Court in CNN Defamation Case

  • Project Veritas is appealing a decision from a federal judge who sided with CNN’s request to dismiss a defamation case against them despite that judge agreeing that there was a difference between the facts and what CNN reported.

  • Last year, Project Veritas sued CNN for defamation after claiming the journalist organization was suspended from Twitter for “misinformation,” despite CNN knowing that Project Veritas was suspended for inadvertently displaying a lamppost with a house number (but nothing else) on it.

  • In a video breaking down the decision to appeal the judge’s decision in this suit, Project Veritas Founder and CEO, James O’Keefe, attributed the dismissal to “flawed caselaw” and “mental gymnastics.”

  • Federal Judge Steve Jones’ decision: While there is some difference between violating a policy by providing incorrect or misleading information and violating a policy by truthfully providing someone’s private information... the distinction is not enough to make the statement at issue actionable as both violations are similarly damaging to the journalist’s reputation.”

  • Project Veritas has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and their lawyers argue that accusing a journalist of publishing something false is substantially different, and damaging, than accusing a journalist of publishing the truth.

[NEW YORK – JULY 20, 2022] Project Veritas announced in a new video that they have appealed Federal Judge Steve Jones’ decision to dismiss a defamation suit against CNN.

Project Veritas’ defamation suit against CNN stems from the network’s knowingly false claim that the nonprofit journalist organization was suspended on Twitter because of “misinformation.”

In reality, Twitter banned Project Veritas because the organization inadvertently failed to blur a lamppost in a video posted to the platform.

CNN knew this. Days before CNN’s false broadcast aired, CNN Business’ Brian Fung correctly reported the facts, citing the Twitter policy and even sought comment from a Twitter spokesperson. Even anchor Ana Cabrera tweeted the correct facts out, but days later, Cabrera incorrectly stated on-air that Project Veritas was banned for spreading misinformation while CNN anchor Brian Stelter, who hosts a show called Reliable Sources, backed her up during the same show segment.  In their Motion to Dismiss Project Veritas’ lawsuit, CNN defended their publication of false information.

In his decision, Federal Judge Steve Jones agreed that CNN misreported the facts yet sided with CNN’s motion to dismiss.

In a video breaking down the decision to appeal the judge’s decision in this suit, Project Veritas Founder and CEO James O’Keefe attributed the dismissal to “flawed case law” and “mental gymnastics.”

Judge Jones’ decision was based on his interpretation of harm:

While there is some difference between violating a policy by providing incorrect or misleading information and violating a policy by truthfully providing someone’s private information... the distinction is not enough to make the statement at issue actionable as both violations are similarly damaging to the journalist’s reputation.

When now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he criticized the approach this district court has taken in saying a lie is equally damaging as the truth.

Such an approach “… asks courts to compare harms flowing from statements on radically different matters that may even be incommensurable,” wrote Gorsuch in Bustos v. A & E Television Networks.

As noted in American Muckraker, Neil Gorsuch highlighted the media’s propensity for libel in a recent criticism of New York Times v. Sullivan saying that the published falsehoods are on a scale so great, “it has come to leave far more [Americans defamed] without redress than anyone could have predicted.”

Project Veritas has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on similar merits, and its lawyers argue that accusing a journalist of publishing something false is substantially different, and damaging, than accusing a journalist of publishing the truth.

From the Project Veritas Appellate Brief:

Cabrera thus accused Veritas of an act of misconduct (publishing false information) when Veritas had in fact engaged in a completely different act (publishing truthful but (supposedly) private information).  Under a straightforward application of settled law, Cabrera’s statement was thus not ‘substantially true,’ and the district court erred in holding otherwise…The district court’s opinion makes clear that in holding Cabrera’s defamatory statement ‘substantially true,’ it is fundamentally misconstrued the substantial truth inquiry.  Rather than comparing the ‘gist or substance’ of Cabrera’s statement of the true facts, the district court compared the magnitude of harm that it believed Veritas suffered from Cabrera’s defamatory statement to the magnitude of harm it believed Veritas would have suffered if Cabrera had instead reported the truth.

About Project Veritas

James O'Keefe established Project Veritas in 2010 as a non-profit journalism enterprise to continue his undercover reporting work. Today, Project Veritas investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society and to engage in litigation to: protect, defend and expand human and civil rights secured by law, specifically First Amendment rights including promoting the free exchange of ideas in a digital world; combat and defeat censorship of any ideology; promote truthful reporting; and defend freedom of speech and association issues including the right to anonymity. O'Keefe serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board so that he can continue to lead and teach his fellow journalists, as well as protect and nurture the Project Veritas culture.  

Project Veritas is a registered 501(c)3 organization. Project Veritas does not advocate specific resolutions to the issues raised through its investigations.  Donate now to support our mission.

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