Conservative commentator Paris Dennard is suing the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership, for a misleading leak of confidential information from his personnel file that the Washington Post used in a hit piece that cost him his job as a CNN contributor, where he had been singularly effective.
Dennard’s attorney filed the lawsuit last Friday in federal district court in Phoenix, Arizona.
In August 2018, Dennard had debated former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Philip Mudd on CNN over President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan. Dennard noted that some former government officials use their security clearances to obtain lucrative jobs and contracts. Mudd lost his temper and shouted at Dennard, “Get out!” Many viewers deemed Mudd’s outburst as odd, and racist.
Trump was impressed by Dennard’s “wonderful” performance, and tweeted about it, noting that he had “destroyed” Mudd, whom he said had “become totally unglued and weird.” The president added: “Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a [security] Clearance.”
Just watched former Intelligence Official Phillip Mudd become totally unglued and weird while debating wonderful @PARISDENNARD over Brennan’s Security Clearance. Dennard destroyed him but Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED? @seanhannity
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
Within days, the Washington Post published an investigative piece by Aaron C. Davis titled, “Trump called this White House defender ‘wonderful.’ He was fired from his previous job for alleged sexual harassment.” The sole purpose of the piece, as the headline suggests, was to punish Dennard for being effective. Even by the low standards of Beltway backstabbing, it stood out as particularly petty and malicious.
It was also inaccurate. It claimed that Dennard had been “fired from Arizona State University four years ago for making sexually explicit comments and gestures toward women.” In fact, as the complaint notes, Dennard was investigated and found not to have violated the university’s sexual harassment rules. It became clear that the Post‘s source had only leaked part of the investigation — the allegations — and not an exculpatory “determination letter.”
Because of the university’s arcane investigative process, Dennard had never even seen the document containing the allegations, against him, which was confidential. As the complaint recalls, when the Post asked him to comment on the allegations, he frantically called the university trying to obtain a copy of the document, only to be told — with just hours before the article was to go to publication — that he would have to submit a formal records request.
After the Post published its article, Dennard later recalled, “I was immediately suspended, without just cause, from various media organizations for which I was a paid contributor, including CNN.” CNN, among others, conducted its own “investigation,” which “could not substantiate the Post‘s claims.” Yet his contract was allowed to expire. The controversy provided an opportunity to get rid of their “only paid black, Republican, Trump-supporting” pundit.
It was, as Dennard later wrote, “a political hit job” reprising the “high-tech lynching” of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Dennard’s complaint notes that a university official “confirmed the authenticity” of the leaked document to the Post. Moreover, the document could only have come from people employed by the university. The circumstances suggest that the university “intentionally disclosed the Report – and commented on it – in order to publicly smear and harm Mr. Dennard.” The result was “irremediable and long-lasting” damage to Dennard’s career and personal reputation.
Dennard is suing for wrongful disclosure of confidential information, false light invasion of privacy, and breach of contract, among other causes of action. The attorney general of Arizona is also reportedly investigating the leak.
Update: Dennard’s attorney, Jennifer McGrath, told Breitbart News: “It is difficult to overstate the harm this improper disclosure of confidential information has caused Mr. Dennard, especially when ASU determined that he never violated the University’s stringent anti-harassment rules. We have alleged that this disclosure was done intentionally and maliciously.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.