A Mississippi professor is suing the HuffPost for defamation over an article last year alleging he supplied drugs to students while he and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Prep school.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Miss., by Derrick Evans against the online news website and a senior writer, alleged defamation over its publication of an article last year in the midst of the Senate hearing to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, USA Today reported.
The professor and community advocate claimed in the lawsuit that former HuffPost journalist Ashley Feinberg falsely reported that he and classmate, Douglas Kennedy, helped to purchase and supply cocaine at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Maryland. The article also stated that the two “helped score” the illegal drugs which resulted in the 1984 death of David Kennedy, Douglas’ 28-year-old older brother and one of 11 children of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and his wife, Ethel.
“These statements were not only false and defamatory, but outrageously so, and were published by defendants with knowledge of their actual falsity or in reckless disregard of the truth for the apparent purpose of creating a salacious story designed to drive internet traffic to HuffPost’s website,” the federal lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleged that the article, titled “Former Student: Brett Kavanaugh’s Prep School Party Scene Was a ‘Free-For-All’,” fabricated the claims in order to sensationalize the wild “alcohol-and-drug-fueled” culture at the elite private school, casting a negative light on Kavanaugh who was in the midst of the contentious hearings and defaming Evans, who had a full academic scholarship to the school and was one of the only black students there at the time.
“Neither Mr. Evans nor Mr. Kennedy had helped purchase, or to use Ms. Feinberg’s word, ‘score,’ any cocaine for David Kennedy,” the 17-page court document read.
“Defendants had no sources to support their outrageously false and defamatory statements about Derrick Evans and Douglas Kennedy. Nor did Defendants make any effort whatsoever to contact Mr. Evans for comment before accusing him of not only of committing a crime, but of being responsible for the death of David Kennedy,” the lawsuit stated.
“Indeed, if Ms. Feinberg or her HuffPost editors had done even the most basic research of publicly available sources, she and they would have known, if they did not already know, that Mr. Evans actively assisted law enforcement in identifying and prosecuting the individuals who actually sold the illegal narcotics,” it continued.
Although HuffPost did publish a correction, the lawsuit claimed that even that contained false information. The national news website did eventually remove any references to the Kennedy brothers and Evans, who went on to earn bachelors and masters degrees from Boston College.
“Defendants’ statements were false, malicious and fabricated, and were published with a knowing, intentional, subjective awareness of, and/or reckless disregard of, their falsity,” Evans’ attorney, John Sneed, said, according to USA Today. “Plaintiff has suffered damages as a result of the Defendants’ statements, including emotional distress and harm to his reputation.”
Though not naming a specific amount, the lawsuit is seeking damages against Feinberg and HuffPost, alleging Evans suffered “emotional distress and harm to his reputation” as a result of its publication. According to USA Today, a spokesperson for the publication said in a statement Wednesday that it does not comment on pending litigation.
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