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Congressional candidate Derek Myers sues Gannett newspapers

The Congressional aide-turned-politician, who has ties to ousted Rep. George Santos, said a newspaper article defamed him by publishing untrue statements about his prior legal issues.

The Congressional aide-turned-politician, who has ties to ousted Rep. George Santos, said a newspaper article defamed him by publishing untrue statements about his prior legal issues.

Political candidate and former newspaper reporter Derek Myers appears in an undated headshot provided by his campaign. (Courtesy photo)
Political candidate and former newspaper reporter Derek Myers appears in an undated headshot provided by his campaign. (Courtesy photo)

A former newspaper reporter and Congressional aide-turned-politician is suing an Ohio newspaper over a featured news article that he characterized as defamatory.

The suit, filed by Derek Myers, comes several days after the Cincinnati Enquirer and some of its co-owned local newspapers published an article written by journalists Scott Wartman and Amber Hunt that detailed some of his prior arrests.

The story published earlier this week claimed that Myers “has been either a plaintiff or a defendant in multiple civil and criminal cases” covering a wide range of accusations, from illegal wiretapping to assault and disorderly conduct.

The wiretapping case was widely reported on when it occurred nearly two years ago. In that incident, Myers was accused of recording audio of a murder trial he attended as a reporter for the Scotio Valley Guardian newspaper. He later published the audio online, even though the judge overseeing the trial approved a witness’ request to not be recorded.

Myers faced a felony charge in that matter. The charge was ultimately dismissed after several press freedom groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, came to his defense.

But the Cincinnati Enquirer claimed to have uncovered numerous other criminal and civil actions against Myers, some of which had not been previously reported. They included an incident in which Myers allegedly impersonated a police officer, and another case involving disorderly conduct in the Ohio town of Circleville.

A copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer article published the week of March 11, 2024. (Screen capture and graphic by The Desk)
A copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer article published the week of March 11, 2024. (Screen capture and graphic by The Desk)

The newspaper said some of those cases were dismissed before trial, while others were reversed after Myers appealed them. But three civil cases are still pending against the candidate, according to the newspaper report, and some minor cases involving Myers did result in a conviction.

In a case dating back to 2017, Myers was “removed from a village council meeting for allegedly becoming ‘disruptive,'” the newspaper reported. Myers was “charged with menacing and disturbing a lawful meeting,” in that incident, “but he eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct,” the newspaper said.

Myers declined to participate in the newspaper report, offering a written, rambling statement that the newspaper later published. In the statement, he opined that “everyone breaks the law, some of us are just smart enough to do it legally,” and claimed that all of his prior criminal cases except for one were dismissed.

The only criminal matter on his record is a single obstruction charge that stemmed from a speeding ticket he received for driving seven miles per hour over the posted speed limit, according to his statement. The charge purportedly came amid a confrontation with the officer in which Myers admitted he said the deputy “was not trained enough to handle someone of Derek’s caliber and that a supervisor should be sent to the traffic stop,” with the arrest coming after Myers refused to hand over his identification.

“Derek revels in your hate, because if he was not effective, you would not have an interest in or hate him,” the statement sent to the newspaper said. “The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring, as Richard Nixon would say.”

(Graphic by The Desk)
(Graphic by The Desk)

On Thursday, Myers moved forward with a civil defamation lawsuit against the newspaper, its reporters and parent company Gannett. A copy of the complaint obtained by The Desk accused Gannett, the newspaper and Wartman and Hunt with deliberately making defamatory claims that the journalists knew, or should have known, were not true. It also accuses

The complaint pointed to a particular section of the newspaper report that claimed Myers was under criminal investigation for obstructing the scene of a house fire while he worked as a reporter.

The claim apparently came from an unnamed spokesperson at the Ross County Sheriff’s office, according to an early version of the article published online.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Myers said his political team reached out to Maj. Mike Preston with the Sheriff’s office, who confirmed to them that there was no active criminal probe against the candidate and that “no one with authority to speak from our office spoke with the Enquirer.”

“Can they name the spokesman?” Maj. Preston apparently told the campaign, according to their statement.

The newspaper could not. Shortly after the article was published online, the line was removed, and the story was amended with an editor’s note that said “Myers is no longer under investigation for a structure fire.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer later walked back a claim that Congressional candidate Derek Myers was under criminal investigation. (Screen capture by The Desk)
The Cincinnati Enquirer later walked back a claim that Congressional candidate Derek Myers was under criminal investigation. (Screen capture by The Desk)

Myers is perhaps best known outside Ohio journalism and political circles for his short career as a Congressional aide to former Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from Congress last December.

Myers’ role wound up being nothing more than that of an unpaid worker after Santos allegedly pulled a paid job offer one week into the gig, according to New York Magazine. Later, Myers would accuse Santos of sexual harassment, alleging that the former lawmaker touched him inappropriately and asked him questions about the gay hookup app Grindr. The accusations were detailed in a letter sent to the U.S. House Committee on Ethics and posted to Myers’ Twitter (later X) profile. Santos denies the claims are true.

Myers was one of several former Congressional staffers and volunteers to be deposed in a series of hearing about Santos’ behavior before and during his time in office. Santos was expelled last December, several months after he was charged by federal prosecutors on a range of criminal accusations that include conspiracy, identity theft and wire and credit card fraud.

Myers launched his political campaign less than a month after the DOJ charged Santos. He is one of 11 candidates vying for Ohio’s Second Congressional District, a seat currently held by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who last year said he would not run for re-election.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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