Earlier this year, CNN aired television programming and posted a tweet linking former Trump administration National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s brother and sister-in-law to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Jack and Leslie Flynn sued the TV network, arguing CNN’s reporting was defamatory and portrayed them in a “false light,” and a federal judge ruled Thursday that their lawsuit can proceed, thus rejecting CNN’s attempt to have the case thrown out.
Though U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Woods did throw out the defamation claim, he said “the Flynns sufficiently allege a false light claim.”
“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 in his ruling.
As Politico reported, the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the Flynns deny being followers of, claims a cabal of elites runs a global child sex-trafficking network that former President Donald Trump was secretly working to dismantle.
Woods said the court couldn’t yet consider tweets from Jack Flynn that CNN’s attorneys argued were evidence he supported parts of QAnon.
“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 said. “Instead, the Court’s task is to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint.”
Moreover, he added, the tweets in question do not necessarily disprove the Flynns’ claims that they aren’t QAnon supporters.
“The Flynns’ tweets do not conclusively contradict their factual allegations,” the judge wrote.
As Politico reported, the case stems from a social media post, as well as TV programming, that used images of the Flynns to tie them to QAnon.
“Jack and Leslie Flynn filed suit against CNN in March, seeking $75 million in damages and claiming that they were defamed by CNN stories and social media postings,” the outlet said. “A Twitter post on a network account in February showed Michael Flynn standing next to his brother Jack and sister-in-law Leslie, raising their hands and reciting an oath popular with QAnon adherents: ‘Where we go one, we go all.’
“An onscreen graphic that appeared below a screen-grab image of the Flynns said: ‘CNN goes inside a gathering of QAnon followers.’ Similar imagery appeared on CNN TV programming.”
Woods’ ruling means that CNN’s reporters and producers who were involved in the production process for the content in question will have to provide sworn depositions in the case.
The network will also “have to turn over its records to” the Flynns, according to Politico.