Daily Beast Defamation Lawsuit Over Gawker Implosion Dismissed

  • A defamation lawsuit against The Daily Beast was dismissed by a New York appeals court.
  • The suit was filed by a former Gawker editor who said her reputation was ruined by an article that described her sending insensitive messages.
  • Her lawyer didn’t show up for an oral argument, a person who attended told Insider.

A New York appeals court this week dismissed a defamation lawsuit against The Daily Beast over an article that led to the implosion of Gawker’s short-lived second iteration.

The Daily Beast article in question, written by Maxwell Tani, detailed Bustle Digital Group’s failed attempt to revive Gawker, a gossipy media site.

The original Gawker was shut down in 2016 after it lost a defamation lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan and secretly funded by billionaire Peter Thiel. Bustle Digital Group, led by CEO Bryan Goldberg, purchased the rights to Gawker in 2018.

Goldberg’s efforts to create “Gawker 2.0” were hampered, Tani reported, by Carson Griffith, an editor he hired. According to The Daily Beast report, the site’s only two writers quit in frustration with Griffith’s comments about diversity in the workplace.

The story created a “full blown crisis” at Bustle Digital Group, according to an email from Goldberg published as an exhibit in the litigation.

“We have advertisers who are in the process of cancelling major advertising launch campaigns for Gawker,” Goldberg wrote. “They are  specifically citing this Daily Beast story.”

Griffith sued Tani, The Daily Beast, and then-editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman over the article in 2020.

She alleged the story defamed her with misleading snippets of her Slack messages, omitted context that would “inaccurately portray her as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and transphobic,” and that the publication didn’t give her sufficient time to respond to the claims made in the article. Griffith was subject to harassment by colleagues and became “essentially unemployable,” she said in her lawsuit.

The litigation bounced around in court for years before landing in front of a New York state appeals court. Griffith’s lawyer failed to show up in court for the oral argument, according to a person who attended the proceedings, but was not authorized to speak to the media.

The appeals court ruling, delivered on Tuesday, said that Griffith’s suit failed to sufficiently argue The Daily Beast “acted with gross irresponsibility” by publishing the article.

“Plaintiff does not allege facts to show why defendants should have doubted the veracity of the two journalists who were the sources on the matters addressed in the article — namely, their reasons for having left Gawker,” the unsigned order says. “Although plaintiff alleges that both sources were ‘biased’ and harbored ‘ill will’ against her, she alleges no facts to show that any such bias or ill will stemmed from anything other than the matters addressed in the article.”

In the litigation, The Daily Beast was represented by the law firm David Wright Tremaine, which has represented Insider in unrelated legal matters.

Griffith was represented by Ron Coleman of the Dhillon Law Group. The firm is led by Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican Party official who unsuccessfully ran for chairperson of the Republican National Committee in January. Coleman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Tani, now a media reporter at Semafor, told Insider he was pleased with the court’s decision.

“Weirdly, I have not seen any stories about this from the reporters who covered the 2020 complaint or other unpleasant aspects of this process,” he told Insider. “That aside, I am pleased the court recognized the soundness of our reporting.”

Shachtman and Tracy Connor, the current editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, declined to comment.

Goldberg ultimately delayed the relaunch of Gawker until 2021. It shut down again earlier this year amid widespread cuts at Bustle Digital Group.

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