14 months after Dave Portnoy alleged Insider’s report that he engaged in “violent and humiliating” sexual encounters with women was a hit piece, the Barstool Sports founder has ended his defamation lawsuit against the company.
Portnoy’s lawsuit against Insider was dismissed last November. He quickly filed to appeal the judge’s decision, but lawyers from both parties have now reportedly agreed to dismiss that appeal with each side covering their own legal fees. The decision to drop the appeal ends a lengthy defamation battle between Portnoy and Insider over alleged reports of sexual misconduct against the Barstool Sports founder.
In Nov. 2021, Insider (then known as Business Insider) published an investigative piece by Julia Black titled, ‘I was literally screaming in pain’; Young women say they met Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy for sex and it turned violent and humiliating. The story featured several anonymous women accusing Portnoy of sexual misconduct.
Two months later, Insider published a follow-up piece by Black and reporter Melkorka Licea featuring three more women accusing Portnoy of sexual misconduct. The allegations stated Portnoy filmed their sexual encounters without consent, with one woman stating the Barstool founder broke her rib during sex.
Portnoy threatened to sue Insider after the Nov. 2021 report. Following the second report, however, Portnoy did sue, naming Black, Licea, Insider, Insider co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget, and Insider global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson in the lawsuit, citing “willful and unlawful defamation and privacy rights violations.”
On Nov. 7, 2022, a district judge in Massachusetts dismissed the lawsuit, citing Portnoy’s failure to prove Insider acted with “actual malice” in his claim of defamation. The U.S. standard for defamation sets the very high “actual malice” bar for public figures, which Portnoy is. Days after the dismissal, Portnoy’s lawyers filed an appeal.
Actual malice was always going to be difficult to prove. But after rallying his rabid following with bombastic videos to claim his innocence, Portnoy continued to exhaust the defamation lawsuit. Portnoy denied any of the sexual encounters were non-consensual, and claimed Insider’s reports were an attempt to damage Barstool Sports and parent company Penn National. Now, almost exactly one year after naming Insider in a lawsuit, the defamation battle ends much more quietly than when it started.
After the appeal was dropped, Insider issued a statement reiterating that they stand by their initial reporting.
A note on Dave Portnoy dropping his lawsuit against Insider pic.twitter.com/RJc1zmGzt7
— Nich Carlson (@nichcarlson) February 2, 2023
“Dave Portnoy’s lawsuit against Insider was dismissed last fall. He appealed. He’s now dropped that appeal,” Carlson posted on Twitter. “We’re not surprised. Our stories were accurate and fair.”
“We are grateful to our reporters Julia Black and Melkorka Licea and to our editors, our team of first amendment attorneys and above all, to our sources,” the statement continued.
“We are proud that when Judge Saylor dismissed Portnoy’s case last fall, he underscored that Insider was thorough in providing substantial evidence for our story.”
“He wrote: “Insider’s articles make clear and plaintiff does not deny that defendants corroborated the women’s accounts with photographs, text and social media messages, videos, medical reports, police documents, an Uber receipt, and statements from at least three friends who saw or spoke with the women soon after their interactions with plaintiff.”
Portnoy has not responded publicly.