You can threaten to sue for libel even if you are clueless about libel claims

I’m sure Donald Trump thinks he has “the best!” lawyers.  He doesn’t.  If they think they have a remotely actionable libel claim they are as clueless as their boss.  The response from the NYT on being told they would be sued for printing allegations of Trump’s groping is brilliant:

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

Oh snap!

And Mark Joseph Stern with a little more on the absurdity of Trump’s claim:

McCraw went on to explain that Trump’s libel threat is ridiculous for another reason: It would violate the First Amendment, which vigorously protects speech on a matter of public concern.

[T]here is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance—indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern.

After schooling Trump and his attorneys on the First Amendment, McCraw invited a court challenge to prove that the Times story is legally protected:

If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.

A word of advice to Trump and his lawyers: A number of extraordinarily powerful people, including an actual president of the United States, have tried to censor theTimes before. They lost. You will too.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to You can threaten to sue for libel even if you are clueless about libel claims

  1. itchy says:

    “The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation.”

    I would have preferred if the NYT had added “against false statements.”

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