Judge Allows Michael Flynn Relatives to Continue Suit Against CNN Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn speaks to supporters of then-President Donald Trump during the Million MAGA March in front of the Supreme Court on Dec. 12, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Friday, 17 December 2021 08:22 AM
The family of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn can proceed with a trimmed down lawsuit against CNN, a federal judge ruled Thursday night.
Flynn’s brother Jack and sister-in-law Leslie have accused CNN of inaccurately depicting them as followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Politico reported.
Although U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Woods’ ruling largely upheld a recommendation from a magistrate judge that the defamation case be thrown out, Woods said the portion of the Flynns' suit that accuses CNN of painting the couple in a "false light" could proceed.
CNN now must turn over its records to the Flynns, and involved network reporters and producers will need to sit for sworn depositions, Politico reported.
"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," wrote Woods, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
Woods' ruling did not discuss whether Jack and Leslie Flynn should be considered public or private figures. Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave ruled they were private figures.
As private figures, the Flynn only be required to show negligence on CNN’s part. A higher standard applies to suits from public figures.
The Flynns deny being followers of QAnon.
CNN's lawyers argued that Jack Flynn's tweets showed that he embraced key tenets of QAnon.
Woods, however, said the tweets couldn't be considered properly by the court at this point of the case.
"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," Woods wrote. "Instead, the Court’s task is to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint."
The judge added that the tweets did not establish clearly that the Flynns were QAnon followers.
"The Flynns’ tweets do not conclusively contradict their factual allegations," the judge wrote.
In March, Jack and Leslie Flynn filed suit against CNN seeking $75 million in damages.
The Flynns claimed they were defamed by CNN stories and social media postings:
- A February Twitter post showing Jack and Leslie raising their hands and reciting an oath popular with QAnon adherents: "Where we go one, we go all."
- An onscreen graphic saying, "CNN goes inside a gathering of QAnon followers" appearing below a screen-grab image of the Flynns.
Michael Flynn was former President Donald Trump's first natioonal security advisor.