Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., this week filed suit in an Iowa federal court seeking $75 million in damages from reporter Ryan Lizza and Hearst Magazines, publisher of Esquire.
The congressman claims Lizza last year defamed him in an Esquire story titled “Devin Nunes’s Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret.”
The 6,900-word article, which describes Nunes as President Donald Trump’s “most important defender in Congress,” examines why the congressman and others would “conspire to hide the fact” that his family had sold its farm in California and opened a dairy in Iowa.
Lizza, who is now Politico‘s chief Washington correspondent, says in the story that the Nunes family might be so secretive because Midwestern dairies “tend to run on undocumented labor,” suggesting Nunes is a hypocrite for supporting anti-immigrant Trump.
The lawsuit says Esquire‘s story was “a deeply flawed and desperate attempt” to target him before last year’s congressional election. Nunes doesn’t own an interest in his family’s Iowa dairy and isn’t involved in its operations, according to the complaint.
“It is a malicious lie made out of whole cloth that spread like wildfire throughout mainstream media and on social media,” the complaint says.
Nunes is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for insult, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental suffering, anguish, and injury to his name and professional reputation.
Hearst didn’t respond at press time to a request for comment.