The brother and sister-in-law of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn are suing CNN over a report that they say portrays them as adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Jack and Leslie Flynn point to a Feb. 4 report from CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan they claim portrays them as QAnon supporters. They are seeking $75 million in damages over the reporting they allege was false and defamatory.
“CNN’s false attributions exposed Plaintiffs to public scorn, ridicule and contempt.”@GenFlynn‘s family members have filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN related to a segment linking him to QAnon.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 26, 2021
The CNN segment, which includes a short video clip Michael Flynn posted on Twitter of the extended Flynn family’s July 4, 2020 celebrations, purports to be an in-depth look at QAnon followers. Flynn has since been banned from Twitter.
The Flynns allege the clip of the Flynn’s Fourth of July celebrations falsely portrayed them as QAnon followers, which “exposed Plaintiffs to public scorn, ridicule and contempt, and lowered their esteem in the community, causing insult, embarrassment, humiliation and substantial injury to Plaintiffs’ reputations.”
They further allege CNN’s depictions of them constitute defamation per se since a later CNN report on QAnon from Anderson Cooper “repeated that QAnon espoused ideas that were based on ‘anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic tropes that have been used [by] … the Nazis.'”
The Flynns claim in the lawsuit they are both private citizens. Under defamation law, private citizens have a higher expectation of privacy than public figures, so it is easier for them to collect damages. CNN faced a similar lawsuit in 2019, when high school student Nicholas Sandmann filed a suit after the network aired misleadingly-edited footage purporting to show Sandmann harassing a liberal activist. (RELATED: CNN Agrees To Settle With Covington Catholic Student Nick Sandmann)
Michael Flynn served as National Security Advisor to former President Donald Trump before resigning in February 2017. Trump later pardoned Flynn after he pled guilty to lying to the FBI about phone conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador. Then-Attorney General William Barr described the case as a “perjury trap.”