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LOL: Trashy Ex-Gawker Link-Bait Peddler Libels Black Professor, Gets Sued

Posted on | September 28, 2020 | 3 Comments

Confession: I was tempted to use the phrase “media Jew” in the headline to describe Ashley Feinberg, just for the sake of cheap traffic from anti-Semites, because really, what’s the difference between that and the kind of link-bait “journalism” Feinberg does? She got her start at Gawker and specializes in mining the Internet for “exclusives,” e.g., “Family Values Activist Josh Duggar Had a Paid Ashley Madison Account.”

After years of trafficking in that kind of stuff, Feinberg evidently forgot how to avoid getting sued for libel. Recall that Gawker got shut down by losing a lawsuit to Hulk Hogan, and you might think an ex-Gawker writer would be conscious of such dangers, but alas, no:

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a Mississippi man’s defamation lawsuit against the news website HuffPost over a 2018 story on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s days at Georgetown Prep school.
Gulfport professor and advocate Derrick Evans’ lawsuit was filed in August 2019 in U.S. District Court in Gulfport against and its former journalist, Ashley Feinberg.
The lawsuit said HuffPost and Feinberg repeatedly defamed Evans and friend Douglas Kennedy to a nationwide audience in September 2018 by falsely asserting 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.

“Make ’em pay,” says Professor Reynolds, and points out that Huffington Post tried to get the case moved to New York “where the courts are notoriously friendly to media defendants. Instead, it’s going ahead in Mississippi, where the plaintiff lives.” You see, that’s how Gawker went bankrupt — Hogan was able to sue them in Pinellas County, Florida, where the jury was full of patriotic red-blooded Americans who hate the media. So the jurisdictional claim in the Evans v. HuffPo lawsuit is really game, set, match. Oh, did I mention that Derrick Evans is black? Because that’s gonna matter a whole lot in Gulfport, Mississippi.

If you take a little time to research how Feinberg screwed this up, it’s because of the kind of laziness that affects media in an age where doing cut-and-paste from the Internet is considered “reporting.”

A few days after Christine Blasey Ford claimed that she had been assaulted by Kavanaugh at a party, Feinberg wrote an article about how Georgetown Prep was a wild party school in the 1980s. Feinberg quoted an anonymous former student: “Drugs everywhere. Partying everywhere. Drinking — just whatever we wanted to do. It was unbelievable, off the rails. And that’s just how it was.” Whether she actually interviewed anyone, I don’t pretend to know, but it’s widely acknowledged that Georgetown Prep boys were pretty rowdy back in the day.

It is not libelous to describe such a situation in general terms, but Feinberg made the mistake of getting very specific in her article:

In describing the culture of the school in those days, the former student pointed to the April 1984 overdose of 28-year-old David Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, who’d injected drugs into his groin, apparently to hide the needle marks. (Cocaine, Demerol and Mellaril were found in his system.) The former student spoke of Kennedy’s death as the end of the school’s free-for-all party scene and the catalyst for changes in Georgetown Prep culture.
Two Prep students — David’s brother Doug, and his friend Derrick Evans — had helped David Kennedy score the coke. Doug, class of ’86, had been at the center of Georgetown Prep social life, which the former student characterized as “weekly frat-style parties with the neighboring sister schools and other private schools,” often hosted by Kennedy at his family’s house in McLean, Virginia.
The death certainly registered on campus. The former student remembered the FBI showing up at Georgetown Prep one day and questioning a student.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh s–t, what happened? How is this going to affect us?’” said the former student. “‘Were we involved? Did this happen with us?’ That kind of thing. It was never a situation where anybody told on anyone.”

On what basis did Feinberg make the flat assertion that Doug Kennedy and Derrick Evans “helped David Kennedy score the coke”? Did her anonymous source tell her that? No, she apparently picked it up from a 1984 New York Times story — except that’s not what the Times reported. My guess is Feinberg was just doing a cut-and-paste job and wrote what she considered a brief synopsis, without noticing the difference between the careful wording of the Times article (which cited a police affidavit as its source) and her unsubstantiated claim about who “helped . . . score the coke.” Nothing in the Times article points to Evans and Doug Kennedy (who were just high-school kids at the time) as doing anything to broker a transaction. Rather, Evans was cited as a witness in the police report of the case against the two men (Peter Marchant, 24, and Linwood Dorr, 31) who were accused of providing cocaine to David Kennedy.

Think about this: A 28-year-old man gets cocaine from two adult men who were employees of the Palm Beach hotel where the Kennedy brothers were staying that weekend while visiting Kennedy clan matriarch Rose Kennedy. Evidently, Doug Kennedy had brought along his prep-school friend Derrick Evans for the trip to Palm Beach. (You can imagine what a treat such a visit would have been for Evans, a poor kid from Mississippi who was attending Georgetown Prep on an academic scholarship.) Does it strike you as logical that David Kennedy would have needed the help of two teenagers to acquire cocaine? Did I mention that Dorr once worked for the Kennedy family? So why would Ashley Feinberg name two teenagers as brokers of this deal?

Here’s what the Times reported in 1984:

Much of the information in the state’s affidavit linking Mr. Kennedy to the two men arrested today appeared to rely on statements obtained from Derrick Evans, a prep school classmate of Douglas Kennedy, a younger brother of David. The brothers were among several family members visiting Mrs. Kennedy for the Easter holidays.
Mr. Evans was staying with Douglas Kennedy at the Brazilian Court in a room separate from that of David Kennedy.
The affidavit said the two men arrested today [i.e., Marchant and Dorr] met David Kennedy at the Brazilian Court on or about April 20 and were asked by him to obtain some cocaine for him.
The affidavit said Derrick Evans was present when the purchase of cocaine was discussed, when the two men [i.e., Marchant and Dorr] “called a person concerning arranging a purchase,” and on April 22 when David Kennedy was reported to have told Mr. Marchant and Mr. Dorr “that the cocaine they had obtained for him was of good quality.”

We may suppose that Feinberg simply misinterpreted the Times article. Instead of realizing that the reference to “two men” making a phone call to set up a cocaine buy referred to Marchant and Dorr, Feinberg may have mistaken this as a reference to Evans and Doug Kennedy.

By the way, incidentally, all of this happened a year after Brett Kavanaugh had graduated from Georgetown Prep. Whether or not Kavanaugh ever partied at the Kennedy home in McLean, Virginia, no one has ever accused Kavanaugh of using cocaine, nor is there any evidence that Kavanaugh was acquainted with Douglas Kennedy or Derrick Evans, who were two years younger than him. So this bit in Feinberg’s story about David Kennedy’s overdose in Palm Beach doesn’t have any direct bearing on Kavanaugh. It was just a gaudy detail thrown into the story and yet it has resulted in her and Huffington Post being sued for defamation. Evans’ lawsuit describes HuffPo’s clumsy effort to contain the damage — which only made it worse:

Upon information and belief, Ms. Feinberg and HuffPost chose not to speak with Derrick Evans, Douglas Kennedy or informed members of law enforcement about the circumstances surrounding David Kennedy’s death before publication of the Original Defamatory Article because they knew that such individuals with knowledge of the actual facts would expose the falsity of their narrative. . . .
On Friday, September 21, 2018, an officer of Fox News, where Douglas Kennedy works as a reporter, contacted HuffPost on Mr. Kennedy’s behalf, informed it in no uncertain terms that its article was false and defamatory, and had obviously been published without any fact-checking whatsoever.
The Fox News officer told HuffPost that the Original Defamatory Article was so deficient it should be removed in its entirety from HuffPost’s website.
Instead of pulling down the offending article, HuffPost doubled down on its defamatory campaign against Mr. Evans by posting a purported “correction” at 6:19 p.m. on September 21, 2018, which declared:

This article previously stated incorrectly that Doug Kennedy was involved in helping his brother to purchase drugs in 1984. Kennedy was only sharing a room with Derrick Evans, who helped David purchase the drugs, according to an affidavit obtained by the New York Times. We regret the error. . . .

Despite having been informed by Mr. Kennedy’s representatives that their original statements about how David Kennedy acquired the cocaine were false, Defendants did not contact Mr. Evans for comment before publishing the falsehood that Derrick Evans “helped David purchase the drugs.” . . .
HuffPost and Ms. Feinberg knew that there was no affidavit “obtained by the New York Times” reflecting that Mr. Evans helped David Kennedy purchase illegal drugs, and that Defendants had no such affidavit in their possession.
Prior to publication of the Defamatory Correction, neither Ms. Feinberg nor her editors at HuffPost ever read or saw the affidavit referenced in the Defamatory Correction.
HuffPost does not have in its possession a copy of the affidavit referenced in the Defamatory Correction.

It seems obvious that, at the time, neither Feinberg nor her editors at HuffPo had any idea who Derrick Evans is, nor did it occur to them that they might have to defend this story in a Mississippi courtroom.

We can expect this case to be settled for a handsome sum, and probably pretty quickly, because there’s no way the defendants want Evans’ lawyers to get discovery — just imagine what sloppiness the private communications between Feinberg and her editors might reveal.



3 Responses to “LOL: Trashy Ex-Gawker Link-Bait Peddler Libels Black Professor, Gets Sued”

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  3. News of the Week (October 4th, 2020) | The Political Hat
    October 4th, 2020 @ 10:12 pm

    […] LOL: Trashy Ex-Gawker Link-Bait Peddler Libels Black Professor, Gets Sued Confession: I was tempted to use the phrase “media Jew” in the headline to describe Ashley Feinberg, just for the sake of cheap traffic from anti-Semites, because really, what’s the difference between that and the kind of link-bait “journalism” Feinberg does? She got her start at Gawker and specializes in mining the Internet for “exclusives,” e.g., “Family Values Activist Josh Duggar Had a Paid Ashley Madison Account.” […]