June Leffler Published

Gov. Justice Threatens To Sue W.Va. Newspaper

Gov. Jim Justice gives an update on coronavirus response and alerts in a virtual briefing with media and citizens on March 24, 2020.

During his regular press briefing, Gov. Jim Justice threatened to sue the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The governor was not happy with a recent column published in Charleston’s largest newspaper Sunday. Longtime statehouse reporter, and current columnist, Phil Kabler wrote that the governor and the legislature could have saved lives by implementing stronger masking and vaccine requirements during the pandemic.

Justice claims Kabler is not telling the truth about his messaging during the pandemic.

“If this situation persists and he continues to do the kind of things he’s doing, we’ll deal with it in court,” Justice said.

Justice acknowledged that winning a libel suit is difficult for public officials under the press’s First Amendment rights.

“I think the law clearly says that it has to be outrageous for some attack on a public official to warrant that public official to be able to enter suit,” Justice said.

The state has the seventh highest per capita COVID-19 death rate in the nation. Kabler said more than 353 deaths have occurred for every 100,000 people in the state.

The governor has yet to file suit. Justice said he still needs to talk to his lawyers.

The Gazette-Mail’s executive editor declined to comment.