Add CNN’s Jake Tapper and Bob Costas to the lengthy list of media personalities being threatened with lawsuits by PGA-turned-LIV golfer Patrick Reed.
Last week, Costas joined Tapper on CNN to discuss the legal battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. During the segment, Tapper accused LIV Golf of being used by Saudi Arabia to sportswash their government’s known human rights abuses, a notion that has been widely shared in the last year. Tapper also noted LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was able to attract some of the sports’ top athletes with “blood money.”
On Tuesday, Golf Monthly obtained a letter from Reed’s lawyers, headed by conservative attorney Larry Klayman. That letter saw them threaten to hit CNN, Tapper and Costas with a $450M lawsuit unless they issue an on-air apology and scrub last week’s segment.
“Late last week, CNN and Jake Tapper, along with CNN’s sports reporter Bob Costas, aired a highly defamatory piece titled ‘The Court Fight Between PGA Tour and LIV Golf Escalates as the Saudi-backed LIV Tries to Avoid Handing Over Information,’” the letter read.
Interestingly, the supposed “highly defamatory piece” by Tapper and Costas never even mentioned Patrick Reed by name.
“Mr. Reed is not a taker of “blood money,” as he simply plays on a golf tour financed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which also owns large shares in a myriad of American companies such as Disney, Boeing, J.P. Morgan Chase, Amazon, Blackrock Inc., Microsoft and many others,” the letter continued.
During the CNN segment in question, Costas noted that many U.S. companies have business relationships with Saudi Arabia, including some who are PGA Tour sponsors, but that doesn’t change the fact that these golfers made the individual choice to join LIV after knowing where the money comes from. Reed’s attorney, however, objected CNN’s framing of that being “blood money” despite its ties to the Saudi royal family.
“Tapper, Costas and CNN are therefore on notice that if an on air public apology is not immediately made to Mr. Reed and the broadcast removed and retracted from CNN’s websites, streaming services and other forms of publication, in order to mitigate the damage which they have caused, as well as discipline meted out to Tapper and Costas, we reserve the right after five (5) days to sue Tapper, Costas and CNN pursuant to Florida Statute 77.01 for damages well in excess of $450,000,000 dollars which includes compensatory, actual, special, and punitive damages,” the letter stated.
CNN issued a statement responding to the threat of legal action from Reed and his attorney, calling the lawsuit “frivolous,” vowing to defend their reporting.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit, whose aim is to chill free speech and intimidate journalists from covering important stories about the Saudi government and the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement to Front Office Sports. “CNN will aggressively defend its reporting, which did not even mention the plaintiff in its coverage.”
Reed and his attorney have been busy in recent months, sending defamation lawsuits to five sports media personalities and four different companies.