CNN Facing Defamation Suit

As the first presidential debate looms on Thursday, there’s an intriguing subplot unfolding that could significantly impact one of the moderators, CNN’s Jake Tapper. The Biden campaign insists their candidate will attend, but there’s another drama brewing involving Tapper and a defamation lawsuit that could cost CNN a staggering $1 billion.

The Florida First District Court of Appeals recently ruled that plaintiff Zachary Young can pursue punitive damages, alongside economic and emotional damages, in his civil trial against CNN. This stems from comments Tapper made about Young’s efforts to aid individuals in Afghanistan during the chaotic withdrawal in 2021. Newsbusters reported that the total damages sought could approach or exceed $1 billion.

The court’s ruling hinged on evidence suggesting malice. Judge L. Clayton Roberts noted, “Young sufficiently proffered evidence of actual malice, express malice, and a level of conduct outrageous enough to open the door for him to seek punitive damages.” Internal CNN messages revealed a vicious intent toward Young. Correspondent Alex Marquardt expressed a desire to “nail this Zachary Young mfucker” and described the story as Young’s “funeral.” CNN senior editor Fuzz Hogan added to this sentiment, calling Young “a shit.”

Young’s lawyer, Vel Freedman, pointed out that while mistakes happen, the internal messages highlighted a “systemic problem” within CNN, showing a failure in their accountability mechanisms. Freedman estimates that Young suffered economic losses between $40-60 million due to the career damage inflicted by CNN’s coverage.

Emotional damages could push the total even higher, with the potential upper limit reaching $600 million. Given the court’s acknowledgment of CNN’s egregious conduct, the punitive damages cap in Florida has been removed, making the $1 billion figure possible.

The lawsuit centers on CNN’s characterization of Young’s legitimate business, which helped corporately sponsored Afghans escape during the Taliban’s takeover, using terms like “black market” and “exploited.” Young’s clients included Audible and Bloomberg News, and he successfully saved 24 people. Yet, CNN allegedly branded him a human trafficker and war profiteer without evidence.

Jake Tapper, whose show “The Lead” aired the defamatory story, emphasized that those seeking escape were given “no guarantee of safety or success.” However, CNN couldn’t substantiate claims that Young’s operations were fraudulent, admitting internally they lacked evidence.

This lawsuit isn’t CNN’s first brush with defamation litigation. Four years ago, they settled a lawsuit with Nick Sandmann, a Kentucky high school student falsely accused of racist behavior at the 2019 March for Life rally. Sandmann sought $275 million in damages.

Whether CNN will fight this lawsuit or opt for a settlement remains to be seen. What’s clear is that the network faces a significant challenge and a potential financial hit. This case underscores ongoing issues with biased reporting and accountability in the media landscape.


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