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Law & the Courts

Kavanaugh’s High-School Classmate Sues HuffPost for Defamation

Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh (Jim Young/Reuters)

A former high-school classmate of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh has filed suit against HuffPost over a “fabricated” report intended to detail the culture of debauchery at Georgetown Preparatory School during Kavanaugh’s time there.

HuffPost reporter Ashley Feinberg, now at Slate, published a report at the height of the Kavanaugh confirmation controversy entitled “Former Student: Brett Kavanaugh’s Prep School Party Scene Was a ‘Free-For-All’,” which purported to expose the degenerate culture that predominated at Georgetown Prep when Kavanaugh was a student. That hard-partying ethos supposedly culminated in the 1984 overdose death of David Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s son, in a Palm Beach hotel.

Feinberg, citing one anonymous Georgetown Prep alumnus, wrote that “two students  David’s brother Doug, and his friend Derrick Evans  had helped score the coke” that ultimately killed David. Evans, an African American professor and community activist, filed suit on Wednesday alleging that Feinberg failed to contact him and fabricated his role in David’s death in her “zeal to create a sensational article about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s years at [Georgetown Prep] and thereby drive traffic to [HuffPost’s] website.”

“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 lawsuit reads.

HuffPost initially corrected the article after Doug Kennedy’s employer, Fox News, sent a letter to the outlet rebutting its allegations.

“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,” reads a correction appended to the article just one day after it was published.

While the correction exonerated Doug Kennedy it also further defamed Evans, according to the lawsuit.

“The September 21 correction was another complete fabrication published by HuffPost with actual knowledge that both it and the original publication were false or in reckless disregard of the truth, again without ever attempting to contact Mr. Evans for comment,” the lawsuit reads. “As HuffPost knew, there was NO affidavit reflecting that Mr. Evans ever helped anyone purchase illegal drugs. Defendants had no such affidavit in their possession, and they could not have had such an affidavit in their possession.”

The original article has been significantly altered since its publication and, as of this writing, no longer contains any reference to David’s death.

The case, Evans v. Huffington Post.com Inc., is now pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

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