In August 2016, two outlets published unfounded claims that Melania Trump had once worked as an “escort.” One was a blogger from Maryland, the other, the Daily Mail.
Trump sued both for “defamation.”
Tuesday, it was announced that Melania settled her lawsuit against the Maryland blogger for an undisclosed sum of money, and a public apology. According to The Washington Post, the blogger paid a “substantial sum,” and issued the following statement via Trump’s attorney:
“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her. I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”
The First Lady’s case against Mail Media was tossed out due to “jurisdictional issues,” however, it was re-filed Monday before the New York Supreme Court.
The case filing states in part:
As a result of Defendant’s publication of defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s brand has lost significant value…the economic damage to Plaintiff’s brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online’s defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars.
…Mail Online made the conscious decision to publish the defamatory statements. At the time of publication, Mail Online was either aware that its statements about Plaintiff were false, or Mail Online harbored serious doubts about the truth of its claims. Mail Online’s publication of the defamatory claims reached millions of readers of Mail Online, and also foreseeably caused a chain-reaction of republication of the claims in many other news outlets, websites, blogs and social media.
…she seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $150 million.”
Further down, the filing claims that “the defamatory statements in the article also constitute defamation per se because they impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
Daily Mail retracted the article, and issued a statement that reads in part:
The article discussed whether allegations being made about Melania Trump could negatively affect her husband Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Among other things, the article noted that allegations have been made in a book available on Amazon about a modeling agency where Mrs. Trump worked…
The article, which was also published online by the Mailonline/DailyMail.com website under the headline ‘Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won’t go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump’s Slovenian wife’ did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true, nor did it intend to state or suggest that Mrs. Trump ever worked as an ‘escort’ or in the ‘sex business.’
To the contrary, The Daily Mail newspaper article stated that there was no support for the allegations, and it provided adamant denials from Mrs. Trump’s spokesperson and from Mr. Zampolli.
The point of the article was that these allegations could impact the U.S. presidential election even if they are untrue.
If the Mail Online publication is similar to that of the Maryland blogger’s, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Melania Trump will win the defamation case. However, a different judge may favor Mail Online‘s defense under his or her own interpretation of the law.