PGA-turned-LIV golfer Patrick Reed has threatened to sue CNN, Bloomberg, and several of their stars over the two news outlets’ coverage of ongoing legal battles between the two pro golfing organizations.
Conservative attorney Larry Klayman sent both news organizations a letter on Sunday warning them that their recent reporting mentioning LIV Golf’s ties to the Saudi Arabian regime defamed his client, the 2018 Masters Tournament champion. The letter to CNN specifically targeted anchor Jake Tapper, sports commentator Bob Costas, chief executive Chris Licht, and general counsel David Vigilante. The Bloomberg letter was addressed to labor reporter Erik Larson and CEO Michael Bloomberg.
Reed’s threats centered around the reporting on legal disputes between the PGA and LIV Golf. In its back-and-forth lawsuits with the PGA, attorneys for LIV issued a subpoena to Clout, a public relations firm hired by the PGA that also represents an organization comprised of 9/11 victims’ families. Clout lawyers have contested the subpoena, arguing LIV wants to “build an intelligence file” on the families for its Saudi backers. Meanwhile, LIV has contended that the PGA has funded and colluded with the 9/11 group specifically to take down LIV.
Klayman demanded each outlet retract and take down their respective coverage within five days of receipt of the letter or risk lawsuits. He proposed $450 million in damages from CNN, but he did not provide a financial amount in his threat to Bloomberg.
CNN declined to comment. Larson, the Bloomberg reporter, said he was not authorized to comment, sending the request to media relations, who did not respond. In an email, Klayman deferred to the letters and warned that he “will not hesitate to sue” The Daily Beast should he deem this reporting defamatory.
In the legal letter, Reed took issue with Thursday’s broadcast of The Lead, in which Tapper examined the legal battles between the PGA and LIV and noted the latter association’s connections to the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which has financed the fledgling golf tour.
In the eight-minute segment, Tapper noted a number of top PGA players who have since defected to LIV, including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Brooks Koepka. Reed, who joined LIV Golf in June, was not specifically named.
“Last year, with that money, they snagged several top PGA players to come on board,” Tapper said. “The human-rights-challenged Saudis did this by offering these players quite a bit of money. A lot of money. Blood money? Sure, maybe. A lot of it.” The CNN anchor listed off the Saudi Arabian regime’s human-rights transgressions, including its links to Al-Qaeda, its repression of women and LGBTQ people, and a CIA intelligence finding that said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
LIV Golf, Tapper said, was a method by Saudi Arabia to rebrand itself in spite of its human-rights violations—a phenomenon known as “sportswashing.” Costas seemingly agreed, adding: “Many U.S. companies, including some who are sponsors of the PGA, have business relationships with Saudi Arabia, and the United States and sports leagues in the United States are deeply invested in China. That doesn’t change the fact that these individual golfers had a choice to make.”
Reed objected to the framing of that segment, particularly taking issue with Tapper’s suggestion that his LIV winnings are “blood money.” Klayman wrote in the letter that Reed “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 PIF did invest in all of these companies and maintains investments in J.P. Morgan, Amazon, Blackrock, and Microsoft. While it did invest in Disney and Boeing in 2020 following the pandemic stock drop-off, it sold those shares later that year.
Erik Larson’s Bloomberg article, titled “Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Is Using PGA Suit to Get Data on 9/11 Families, Court Told,” also covered the dispute, noting in its first three paragraphs that the ongoing feud has taken a “sinister turn” in its involvement of 9/11 families. It did not mention Reed or any professional golf player who joined LIV Golf.
According to Klayman, the line about a “sinister turn” was a “calculated effort” tby Clout, the PGA, and Larson “to incite violence” against Reed.
“To the contrary the sinister aspect of this story is not legitimate discovery in pending court cases, but the overt transparent effort by the PGA Tour and its agents, such as Clout, to use the horrible tragedy of 9/11 to whip up hatred against LIV Golf and its players, in an anticompetitive scheme to destroy the new golf league,” Klayman wrote.
Reed has sued multiple outlets for defamation since he joined LIV Golf. In August, he sued the Golf Channel and on-air personality Brandel Chamblee for $750 million, later looping in three more correspondents, Golf Digest, and publishing company Gannett the following month. He then sued Fox Sports, the New York Post, the Associated Press, and Hachette Book Group for $250 million over its coverage of LIV Golf.