OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A U.S. federal judge has ruled that relatives of former national security adviser Michael Flynn can move forward with a lawsuit against CNN.
The relatives, Flynn’s brother Jack and sister-in-law Leslie, allege that CNN wrongly portrayed them as QAnon conspiracy followers, according to a report.
Earlier this year, CNN aired a report entitled “CNN Goes Inside A Gathering of QAnon Followers.”
“The report included a brief clip of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn proclaiming, ‘where we go one, we go all.’ Plaintiffs John P. (‘Jack’) and Leslie A. Flynn … are shown in the clip standing next to General Flynn,” wrote U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
Jack and Leslie are seeking $75 million in damages, arguing that CNN defamed them and portrayed them in a negative light.
Politico described QAnon as a “popular online conspiracy theory that claimed elites were sexually abusing children and that former President Donald Trump was planning to declare a national emergency to strike back at the shadowy figures engaged in the abuse.”
The legal team for CNN posited that Twitter posts from Jack Flynn, Michael Flynn’s brother, demonstrate that he followed critical doctrines of QAnon, according to the case.
However, those tweets are unable to be appropriately evaluated by the court at this time, Woods said.
“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,” he wrote. “Instead, the Court’s task is to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint.”
The tweets also fail to establish direct evidence that the Flynns were QAnon adherents, Woods noted.
“The Flynns’ tweets do not conclusively contradict their factual allegations,” he said.
The Flynn’s maintained that CNN had “no independent evidence to corroborate that [they] were followers or supporters of QAnon.”
According to the ruling, the Flynns must show that “[t]here has been some publication of a false or fictitious fact which implies an association which does not exist; [and] [t]he association which has been published or implied would be objectionable to the ordinary reasonable man under the circumstances.”
“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,” Woods wrote.
He explained that Jack’s tweets “do not conclusively contradict [the Flynns’] factual allegations.”
“These allegations, which the Court must accept as true, are sufficient to plausibly allege that CNN did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the Flynns were QAnon followers,” Woods wrote.
Politico noted that Woods “did not discuss whether Jack and Leslie Flynn should be considered public or private figures,” but the magistrate judge who previously reviewed the case determined they were private.