Judge dismisses Project Veritas libel lawsuit against CNN

A federal judge has filed a libel suit against CNN filed by Project Veritas, the far-right media outlet known for its sting operations and shaky ethics.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones dismissed the lawsuit on Friday, saying he believes an on-air statement by CNN about Project Veritas did not rise to the level of a lawsuit, Deadline first reported.

The lawsuit centered on a February 15, 2021 report in which CNN’s Ana Cabrera said the right-wing media outlet, run by James O’Keefe, had been suspended from Twitter for “spreading misinformation.” Project Veritas said the group was suspended not for spreading misinformation, but for “repeated violations of Twitter policies prohibiting sharing — or threatening to share — other people’s private information without their consent.”

In his opinion (read here), US District Judge Steve C. Jones wrote that Project Veritas’ reputation would have come under fire anyway. He wrote that “while there is some difference between violating a policy by providing incorrect or misleading information and violating a policy by honestly providing someone’s private information (and potentially exposing someone to harm) , the distinction is not sufficient to make the statement in question actionable, as both violations are equally damaging to the reporter’s reputation. Project Veritas’ allegations and arguments do not plausibly suggest that the truth (as as alleged in the complaint) would have a different effect on the mind of the average reader in terms of reputational damage.

Project Veritas and its founder, O’Keefe, have been known to spy on other news outlets, deceptively edit “spicy” videos and promote false claims. In 2020, for example, the group attempted to smear Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) by falsely claiming that her re-election campaign illegally collected ballots. The smear has been widely discredited.

And last week, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that Project Veritas had engaged in a campaign of harassment against New York Times reporters who reported on the group’s spying tactics. After releasing his report, Darcy said O’Keefe and his team confronted Darcy outside of CNN’s office.

“O’Keefe and a team of several others responded to my story by stalking and harassing me on my way to work in the morning,” Darcy wrote in CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter on Friday. “O’Keefe referenced my report from last week and harassed me with all sorts of questions. The purpose of it all seems clear: to make spotlighting Project Veritas an unpleasant experience. O’Keefe and Project Veritas apparently target journalists who write stories they don’t like.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, an attorney for Project Veritas, told Deadline that the group stands by its claim that CNN “defamed Project Veritas by falsely stating that Twitter removed Project Veritas for spreading false information.”

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