Former Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs sued Newsmax, Joe diGenova and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign for defamation.
The suit comes after diGenova said during a Dec. 1 appearance on Newsmax that Krebs “should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot.” A few days later, diGenova, a lawyer for Trump, apologized on-air, calling the comments “a poor attempt at humor” and “hyperbole.”
Krebs was fired by Trump after he disputed the outgoing president’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election, which President-elect Joe Biden won. Newsmax, a conservative commentary cable channel, has made headlines for being the only outlet to refuse to call Biden the president-elect. In his comments, diGenova suggested Krebs committed treason, which the complaint says amounted to “ a calculated and pernicious conspiracy to defame and injure” him.
Krebs’ complaint, reviewed by TheWrap, says that since diGenova’s appearance on Newsmax’s “The Howie Carr Show” Dec. 1, “threats have upended plaintiff’s life, as well as his family’s security, and caused serious fear, distress, suffering and even physical damage.” It was filed in Montgomery County, Maryland, where diGenova resides.
“As defendant Newsmax’s CEO recently revealed in a recent interview with the New York Times, feeding viewers’ rage over the 2020 election and pleasing the campaign are two ingredients to defendant Newsman’s financial success,” noted the complaint, referring to Chris Ruddy’s recent Times interview. Times media columnist Ben Smith surmised in that piece that Ruddy thinks his audience is “stupid enough to fall for” the baseless story of Trump being robbed of a second term by election fraud.
Trump has spent the past few weeks encouraging his followers to defect from Fox News to Newsmax and similarly Trump-friendly One America News Network. Though Newsmax did see an increase in viewership in the week after the election, the latest ratings from Nielsen Media Research show that the channel is down double digits from that week. In comparing the most recent week with available data, the week of Nov. 30, to the week of Nov. 9, Newsmax is down 11% in viewership overall and down 28% in the advertiser-coveted age demographic of 25 to 54. In primetime, the network is down 17% in total average viewers and down 30% in the key demo.
In a statement to TheWrap, Newsmax called diGenova’s comments “inappropriate” and pointed to his on-air apology from Dec. 4 while mentioning he “is not a paid contributor to Newsmax.”
“Newsmax believes that claims made by Mr. Krebs in his suit of a ‘conspiracy’ and defamation against him are a threat to free speech and his legal action endangers all media organizations that seek an open discourse of ideas and news,” said the statement.
Representatives for the Trump campaign and did not immediately return requests for comment. And diGenova did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.