Flynn's Relatives Allowed to Proceed With CNN Suit Over 'False Light' Reports Linking Them to QAnon
Former Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Leslie Flynn, filed a suit against CNN in March, claiming they had been defamed and falsely painted as followers of the QAnon mass conspiracy theory; they are seeking $75 million in damages.
by US District Court Judge Gregory Woods on Thursday rejected CNN’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the network by family members of former Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The part of the suit that accuses the network of painting Flynn’s brother Jack and sister-in-law Leslie in a “false light” as followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory has now been given the green light to proceed.
“Whether the Flynns were QAnon followers, and in particular, whether the Flynns were ‘followers’ as that word is understood in the context of CNN’s publication, is a highly fact-intensive inquiry,” stated the ruling by Woods.
The Flynns have vehemently denied they are followers of the bizarre QAnon conspiracy theory that claims, among other things, that a clandestine "paedophile ring" exists within the upper ranks of the Democratic party. Donald Trump and his allies are, according to Q supporters, the ones destined to battle it by declaring a national emergency. That means the news network will have to turn over its records to Flynn and have reporters and producers involved in the production sit for sworn depositions.
Despite lawyers for CNN arguing that Twitter messages from Jack Flynn evidenced he espoused key tenets of QAnon, the judge claimed they “do not conclusively contradict their factual allegations”.
“Even though the tweets express support for QAnon and are therefore evidence that the Flynns were QAnon followers, the Court cannot weigh evidence in deciding a motion to dismiss,” wrote the judge, adding the court’s task was “to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint”.
In line with the ruling, the news network will have to turn over its records to Flynn, while reporters and producers involved could be summoned for sworn depositions.
Flynn-CNN Defamation Case
Jack and Leslie Flynn filed a suit
against CNN in March, seeking $75 million in damages from the cable news network. In their suit, the Flynns allege a CNN report on 4 February falsely accused them of being followers and supporters of QAnon.
The lawsuit states that CNN edited a video, originally posted
on Twitter by Michael Flynn, “making it appear and insinuating that [Jack and Leslie] pledged an oath of allegiance to QAnon.” “Where we go one, we go all” is the oath popular with QAnon adherents.
Furthermore, an onscreen graphic appeared below the CNN-posted screen-grab image of the Flynns, saying, “CNN goes inside a gathering of QAnon followers.”
“Plaintiffs are not followers or supporters of any extremist or terrorist groups, including QAnon… CNN falsely attributed to Plaintiffs associations that never existed, actions Plaintiffs never took, including an oath of allegiance to QAnon, and views Plaintiffs never held. CNN’s false attributions 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,” the Flynns stated in their suit.
Earlier, Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave recommended
the defamation case brought by Flynn’s brother Jack and sister-in-law Leslie be thrown out. She also ruled they were private figures, while conceding the issue might be revisited later in the case. If classified as private figures, the Flynns may only be required to show negligence on the network’s part. A suit from public figures must show the news outlet knew its statements were false, acting in reckless disregard of evidence.
There has not been any official comment from CNN on the ruling.
This comes as one of Donald Trump's five national security advisers, Michael Flynn, hailed as one of the high-profile figures in the QAnon community who was even banned from Twitter for his alleged links to the conspiracy theory has apparently disavowed it. According to an audio recording posted by pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood and described as an excerpt from a call between himself and the ex-POTUS adviser, "Flynn" appears to slam
the movement created as disinformation by “the left”, but also “someone trained by the CIA”.
QuAnon supporters condemned Flynn, who attended a QAnon conference in May and voiced support for the idea of a Myanmar-style coup happening in the US, for his purported shift in beliefs.