There is an interesting defamation case out of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Professor Derrick Evans is suing Huffington Post for a September 2018 story on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and partying at Georgetown Prep school. The article alleged that Evans committed drug offenses in scoring drugs for friends, particularly cocaine. The most extraordinary — and potentially defamatory — claim was that Evans and his friend Douglas Kennedy not only regularly bought and distributed cocaine but supplied the cocaine in April 1984 that killed Douglas’ brother, David.
HuffPo journalist Ashley Feinberg wrote the story entitled “Kavanaugh’s Prep School Party Scene Was a ‘Free-For-All’.” At the time, every and any allegation against Kavanaugh was being rushed to print and the filing suggested that the article was the result of this reckless period. Feinberg’s article was later scrubbed to remove any reference to the Kennedy brothers or Evans.
She is still listed as a senior reporter with the Huffington Post.
The Kennedy boys were the sons of the late U.S. Attorney General and Senator, Robert F. Kennedy.
Evans insists that there were no sources to support that story and that HuffPo’s conduct was so egregious that it satisfies the higher standard of New York Times v. Sullivan. That standard requires a showing of “actual malice,” or either knowledge that a representation is actually false or reckless disregard of the truth of the representation.
“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. 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.”
Evans was one of the few African American students at Georgetown Prep and, after receiving a scholarship to go there, he earned his bachelors and masters degrees from Boston College. He then became a history professor and lecturer on American social history and the civil rights movement. He is also the co-founder of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, which funded recovery efforts in coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida after the Katrina hurricane.