A Mississippi professor named Derrick Evans, who attended Georgetown prep with Brett Kavanaugh, has filed a defamation lawsuit against HuffPost and the author of a story that mentioned him. That story claimed that Evans and another man had supplied cocaine for a wild party which may have resulted in another person’s death. From the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger:
The lawsuit said HuffPost and Feinberg repeatedly defamed Evans and friend Douglas Kennedy to a nationwide audience on multiple occasions in September 2018 by falsely asserting that they helped arrange the purchase and delivery of cocaine at Georgetown Prep that resulted in the April 1984 death of David Kennedy, Douglas’ brother and the son of the late U.S. attorney general and senator, Robert F. Kennedy.
“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 lawsuit said…
“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 said. “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.”
The story in question was published under the headline: “Former Student: Brett Kavanaugh’s Prep School Party Scene Was A ‘Free-For-All’” on Sep. 20, 2018. It was based on an interview with an anonymous source who claimed that students from Georgetown prep and other private schools had parties where drugs and sex were routine:
The police would be there, but they would say, “Oh, are you going to the party? We’ll escort you.” That kind of thing. And, you know, they’re escorting a load of teenage kids in a car who were all going to underage drink and party. And as I remember, it was hundreds of kids — boys and girls from different schools, all private. No public schools were involved. And what would happen was a lot of drinking. There was one room full of drugs, everybody would be doing coke. And in another room, everybody would be smoking weed. And then in another room, people would be having sex. And there would be all sorts of unwanted stuff going on.
Initially, the article specifically mentioned Evans and Douglas Kennedy and said they had supplied cocaine for parties. There was even a suggestion the cocaine they supplied may have resulted in a specific drug-related death according to the Hill:
The article also stated that the drugs may have resulted in the 1984 death of David Kennedy, who was Douglas Kennedy’s brother and the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Four days after it was published, mentions of Derrick Evans and Douglas Kennedy were removed from the story. A correction was added which reads:
This article previously mischaracterized the involvement of individuals in a drug purchase. References to those individuals and the incident have been removed. We regret the error. Additionally, certain references by the former student to specific individuals have been removed to better reflect the intended purpose of the article: to provide a former student’s general characterizations of the party culture.
The story came in the midst of the confirmation battle over Judge Kavanaugh which focused heavily on his high school yearbook and teenage drinking. Ashley Feinberg, the author of the story, no longer works at HuffPost. She now writes for Slate. I guess we’ll see if she and HuffPost’s editors had anything to support the anonymous allegations that appeared in the anonymous story but given the correction, it seems a safe bet that they did not. The lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount the plaintiff is seeking.