EXCLUSIVE: Details Emerge About CNN Defamation Case


“Dispute,” Jake Tapper said, with a twist of his head, the derision he delivered obvious to viewers. 

Tapper was hosting his CNN show “The Lead” and reading Fox News’ statement following the network’s settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. Tapper’s mockery was on display as much as it was heard in his delivery of the prepared words. “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute…,” and he repeated the word with a chuckle, “…with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.” His theatrics continued.

“‘This settlement reflects’…I’m sorry, this is going to be difficult to say with a straight face. ‘This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our dec–’”

Then, the professional host lapsed into mockery with a forced laugh.

“‘We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.’”

This was Jake putting on a show, looking to be heard above the chorus of other news outlets scorching Fox News, condemning the rival network with condescension. The delivery implying that Fox could no longer be considered a news network was evident. It was also delusional, as we were to believe that CNN was above such issues, as it is a reputable outlet that adheres to rigid journalistic standards. 

We just needed to bypass the fact that his network had previously been embroiled in a defamation case of its own, settling with high school student Nick Sandmann. 


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Now, RedState has exclusive new details regarding how CNN is dealing with another defamation case, one involving a report that was seen on none other than “The Lead: With Jake Tapper.”

There’s scant coverage of this potentially massive case across those previously hectoring outlets that were so critical of Fox, despite the fact that it could carry a judgment figure eclipsing the $787 million settlement Fox News reached with Dominion. The compensatory and punitive damages may very well approach the $1 billion level.

As we previously covered, a Florida appellate court recently ruled that Zachary Young, a private contractor who worked to evacuate U.S. citizens from Afghanistan during the disastrous 2021 withdrawal, had presented sufficient evidence to pursue punitive damages in his defamation suit against CNN related to a report filed by CNN’s Alex Marquardt.


A Defamation Case Against CNN Moves Forward;
Network Accused of Actions It Slammed Fox News for Taking


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During the disaster-ridden expulsion of American troops from Afghanistan, Young was a contractor-for-hire who offered to evacuate U.S. citizens from the country. Marquardt’s report framed Young as reckless and opportunistic, and Young seeks to show in his defamation suit that aspects of Marquardt’s report were not only deeply factually flawed but malicious. These details were found by the court to be sufficient enough to move forward to a trial.

In an exclusive interview with Young and his attorney, more specifics about the case came to light, tending to show that Tapper’s condescension may have involved a severe case of projection. Young explained:

“When they first approached me, they led me to believe it was to have me provide background on my line of work. It turned out that I was the main focus, but they allowed me little input.”

This indicates how the CNN production was engaged in what is a too-common practice in journalism: spending time to build a story about a subject, and then only contacting that subject (or person) very late in the process. 

Young’s lawyer explained this in the presentation to the court, stipulating how once Young was finally contacted — for the story about him and his work — he was only given hours before a deadline.

As we previously reported, there are two glaring realities concerning CNN. Internal communications at the network, obtained by Young’s team, showed there were concerns with Marquardt’s report lacking factual substance, and yet it was pushed onto the airwaves. Then there are the instances where it appears that voices in the production, including Marquardt, sought to negatively impact Young’s work. 

Young stated that at one point, he sought out Marquardt to correct a number of portions of his reporting, but he was rebuffed. The internal communications showed a number of those inside CNN questioned the veracity of the report and even called to delay it for broadcast until more could be fleshed out. Instead, it appears to have been rushed onto the air. Some of the voices questioning the story even declared there was not sufficient content for the report to run on the CNN digital side.

With the complaint of malicious intent, the court activity shows some revealing components. Of particular concern was the use of the term “black market” to describe Young’s business operations. Despite having a legitimate operational business at the time — Nemex Enterprises Inc. — Young’s argument in the summary judgment is that CNN presented him as working in the black market to imply directly he was an illegal operator. This is where CNN lawyers were focused in their defense.

In their argument (heard in the video above) the CNN legal team insisted the use of “black market” was to suggest Young’s work was unregulated, not illegal. This was countered by the submission of not just numerous dictionary terms but also those in judicial records, which also uniformly recognized the term as an indication of illegal activity. This argument by CNN was so roundly dismissed that one member of the appellate panel asked of the editorial vetting at the network, “So these are lawyers and professional writers that — you know — are used to dealing with words and have dictionaries, and know how precise, what words mean?”

Then things turned desperate, as the CNN lawyer stated how “black market” was not actually used during the discussions within the editorial teams, attempting to say that, in the context of punitive damages, it was the “plaintiff’s burden” to show the intended meaning behind the use of the term. Making this an odd defense is that editorially discussed or not, the fact is the various reports concerning Young and his business described him as a black market worker, with on-screen graphics under his image also stating this to be the case. The CNN lawyer ultimately had to admit to it being “a poor choice of words” on their behalf.

This mischaracterization also falls in line with the various communications unearthed in the discovery phase, where Marquardt and his producers shared exchanges where they were targeting Zachary Young. He is referred to in vulgar terms, and the intent appears to be to bring him down professionally. These are much like the very activities Jake Tapper was noting about Fox News to denigrate that network as not a legitimate news outlet. Here, we appear to have evidence of virtually the same activity taking place not only on his network but on his own program.

All of this points to a case with enough validity to move forward toward a trial for both compensatory and punitive damages. The fact that the sum involved could reach such a stratospheric level would indicate a possible motivation for CNN to reach a settlement with Young before going to trial. This would be done to both stem the exorbitant penalty and to avoid widespread exposure of defamatory practices.

But this does not sound like an option. “We have no desire to settle with them,” Young said to me. “We intend to follow this all the way through the punitive process.”



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