Mackenzie Mays was the scribe behind the “YachtCocaineProstitutes” article that appeared in the Fresno Bee in 2018, which has resulted in a lawsuit from Rep. Devin Nunes. News of Nunes’ $150 million defamation lawsuit against the McClatchy Company, the company that owns the Bee, broke on April 9. The article in question was published on May 23, 2018. In addition to monetary compensation, Nunes is also seeking the deletion of the article. As news of the lawsuit spread, the phrase “YachtCocaineProstitutes” became the number one trending topic on Twitter.
The article dealt with a different lawsuit that was being brought by a woman who worked on a yacht. In 2015, the yacht was rented by Omega Winery, a company that Nunes partially owns. The server says that during that boat trip, the server witnessed groups of men using cocaine, drinking excessively and performing sexual acts with prostitutes. The article says that at the end of the day, the men gathered the prostitutes on the deck of the boat and paid them while reviewing the sex acts they had performed. The piece makes it clear that it is “unclear” if Nunes “was aware of the lawsuit or was affiliated with the fund-raiser.” That original lawsuit being brought against Omega Winery was settled out of court.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mays Has Not Spoken Publicly About Nunes’ Lawsuit
Mays, who is now a California education reporter with Politico, has not spoken publicly about the lawsuit at the time of writing. Shortly after news broke about the suit, Mays posted a pro-journalist photo to her Twitter page.
Later, Mays posted a photo encouraging people to follow Politico’s new California bureau on Twitter. While in response to the lawsuit, McClatchy editor Lauren Gustus tweeted, “Nunes suit is without merit. We @McClatchy stand behind the reporting of the @FresnoBee.”
2. Mays Said in a 2018 Interview That She Constantly Worries About Her Safety in the Current Political Climate
Mays was featured by GQ Magazine in December 2018 in an article about the future of local news. That article detailed Mays’ coverage of former Fresno Unified School District’s school board president, Brooke Ashjian. At the time, Mays had been the Fresno Bee’s education reporter. Ashjian is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump. During her interview, Mays talks about moving to Fresno with her husband from her hometown in Virginia.
Thanks to Mays’ reporting on Ashjian and Nunes, she has become a social media target for their supports, as well as supporters of the president. Mays told GQ that her brother, who is a homosexual, was also targeted. Mays said in the interview, “If someone wants to meet me for coffee and I don’t know who they are, there is something in the back of my mind like: ‘I don’t know this person. What are their intentions?’ I never really worried about my safety before all of this… I don’t think it would be far-fetched to say that some people would be emboldened to attack the press because of the president, and I don’t see that as any sort of political viewpoint. I really don’t. In this case, you had someone at a local level who happened to be a huge supporter of the president, who was viciously attacking a local reporter.”
3. Mays Was on Staff at the Fresno Bee Between 2015 & 2019
Mays left the Fresno Bee in January 2019 to join Politico’s new California bureau. Mays first joined the Bee in 2015 having previously worked at The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia between 2012 and 2015. According to Mays’ LinkedIn page, prior to that, she wrote for The Daily Athenaeum in Morgantown, West Virginia, the student-run newspaper of West Virginia University. Mays graduated from the school in 2012 with a journalism degree.
4. Devin Nunes Has Released an Attack Ads Targeting the Fresno Bee
Last year, Nunes released an attack ad calling the Fresno Bee “fake news” for what he perceived as negative coverage. Nunes says in the spot, “Sadly, since the last election, The Fresno Bee has worked closely with radical left-wing groups to promote numerous fake news stories about me.”
In August 2018, Vice covered the relationship between the Bee and Nunes by interviewing Mays. During the above video, you can see Mays play a voice message in which she accused of doing a “hit job” on Nunes and being called a “radical socialist” and a “corrupt bastard.”
5. Mays & Her Husband Registered for Pizza Prior to Their 2017 Wedding
Mays married her husband, Matt Thomas, in Yosemite National Park in August 2017. The couple was covered by a wedding blog because of their odd decision to register for guests to buy them pizza prior to their nuptials. In that blog post, the couple said that they met in 2009 while students at West Virginia University. Mays also said that the only people present at their ceremony was their parents and a photographer.