Judge Gladys Kessler of the federal court in the Southern District of New York issued an interim restraining order this past week to stop the New York Times from publishing the name of a person involved in the conservative activist group Project Veritas’s effort to sting journalists in New York and other cities around the country. The case involved videos by Project Veritas that included a person claiming to be a “senior Democratic official” and urging the reporter to print the name of a Democratic donor involved in the Mob.
The person is actually Nathan Sproul, a conservative activist and a regular contributor to Project Veritas. The Times reported on his efforts to expose corruption and illegal activities by elected officials, but now Sproul has gotten the last laugh.
In the first week of January, Sproul authored a blog post online entitled, “The New York Times Decision to Nix ‘Rigged 2016 Primary Vote’ Story”. In the post, Sproul harshly criticized the New York Times for removing references to him and his conversation with the reporter, Vanessa Grigoriadis, from the audio that was part of Project Veritas’ video of a failed sting targeting Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s communications director.
The New York Times has said the fact that the audio of the conversation wasn’t referenced on the video was the reason they had removed the information. However, in the lawsuit filed by the New York Times, Sproul’s lawyer Dan Webb stated that the Times’ decision was due to Sproul’s opinion on Palmieri’s firing, which was obviously not relevant to her firing and had nothing to do with Sproul’s video.
Sproul also claimed he was threatened with violence. In the lawsuit, he claimed: “In August 2017, Van insisted I released the audio of her regarding Ms. Palmieri and said she was going to kill me.”
Similar to the Project Veritas undercover videos, Sproul asked the Times reporter not to write anything else about the individual he was talking to in New York. The Times met the request with another compromise: they would give Sproul a place in the story to reiterate his claims. Instead, they published a summation of the conversation. In an email to readers, the Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet wrote: “If he goes to jail as charged, I suspect Sproul will be satisfied.”
However, after the Times published the story, Sproul began making claims that the Times had embarrassed him and their readership. He also made claims that the only reason he was a villain is because he opposed President Trump and co-founded the PR firm The Tides Foundation.
Sproul asked the court to allow him to “re-litigate” his story and protect his reputation. Last week, Judge Kessler granted him that request and stated that “Plaintiff did not seek to publish the identity of the Democratic donor; it sought to report on his involvement in facilitating a fraud and bribery operation.”
Further into the matter, Judge Kessler noted that Sproul “has a substantial interest in challenging [New York Times journalists’] use of the audio recording provided by defendants… notwithstanding the fact that plaintiff is not on the tape, but has been the victim of an orchestrated sting operation, which the trial court and defendant failed to uncover, failed to respond to, and failed to call.”
A trial has been set for 17 March.