Thursday, September 01, 2016

Melania Trump Sues Daily Mail for Libel Over ‘Escort’ Claim

Melania Trump's past modeling choices

It is difficult to ever figure out what motivates Donald Trump and to a lesser extent his wife Melania (who personally, I can only assume, thinks about The Donald's bank accounts as she has sex with him - something that I admit is stomach wrenching to even contemplate trying to envision even momentarily).   Perhaps the goal is to intimidate media outlets and bloggers.  Perhaps they hope for a quick settlement with the Daily Mail and some quick cash to bolster lagging finances.  But, their thought process - or lack thereof - is even more unfathomable now that Melania has sued a Maryland based blogger and the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail, for libel based on gossip that she may have once worked as an "escort" prior to snaring The Donald.   But as an attorney, I can think of nothing more potentially damaging, if indeed she has something to hide, than to begin a court proceeding where the opponents can subpoena all kinds of information arguably relevant to the issue of Melania's past employment, immigration status, etc.  In addition, as a public figure now that she has spoken at the GOP convention and other campaign related events, Melania has a heightened burden of proof to prevail.  Variety looks at what I believe is an insane lawsuit.  Here are highlights:
Melania Trump, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, filed a libel lawsuit on Thursday against a Maryland blogger and the parent company of the Daily Mail over reports that she was once an “escort.”
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, said in a statement that the defendants “made several statements about Mrs. Trump that are 100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and professional reputation.”
The lawsuit was filed in circuit court in Montgomery County, Md., against Mail Media and Webster Tarpley, who published the blog in Montgomery County.
“These defendants made several statements about Mrs. Trump that are 100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and professional reputation,” Harder said in a statement. “Defendants broadcast their lies to millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world — without any justification. Their many lies include, among others, that Mrs. Trump supposedly was an ‘escort’ in the 1990s before she met her husband. Defendants’ actions are so egregious, malicious, and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are estimated at $150 million dollars.”
The lawsuit cites an Aug. 2 blog post on that cited rumors that Trump was having an “apoplectic fit” after the “plagiarism incident” at the GOP convention and was refusing to return to the campaign trail. The post also claimed that she feared revelations of her time as a “high end escort.”
The suit claims that Tarpley published the post while “consciously doubting the truth of the claims and this acted with actual malice.” Public figures generally have to prove actual malice, not just negligence, to prevail in a libel lawsuit.
The Daily Mail cited a book co-authored by a Slovenian journalist, Bojan Pozar, claiming that a modelling agency she worked for in Milan was more like a “gentleman’s club.” It also cited a Slovenian magazine claiming that Trump’s New York modelling agency “also operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients.”
Trump “did legitimate and legal modeling work for legitimate business entities and did not work for any ‘gentleman’s club’ or ‘escort’ agencies,” the lawsuit says.
The suit says that the Daily Mail “acted with actual malice.” The lawsuit says that Daily Mail received a written statement from Trump’s representative saying that the claims in the article were false, and that the book it relied upon “was apparently self-published and inherently unreliable.”
The Daily Mail posted a statement and retraction on their site on Thursday afternoon. “To the extent that anything in the Daily Mail’s article was interpreted as stating or suggesting that Mrs. Trump worked as an ‘escort’ or in the ‘sex business,’ that she had a ‘composite or presentation card for the sex business,’ or that either of the modeling agencies referenced in the article were engaged in these businesses, it is hereby retracted, and the Daily Mail newspaper regrets any such misinterpretation.”
Tarpley also issued a response: “Melania Trump’s lawsuit against me is without merit. Mrs. Trump is a public figure actively engaged in the Trump for president campaign. We are confident that Mrs. Trump will not be able to meet her high burden of proving the statements published about her on my website were defamatory in any way. Her lawsuit is a blatant attempt to intimidate not only me but journalists of all stripes into remaining silent with regard to public figures. This lawsuit is a direct affront to First Amendment principles and free speech in our democratic society.” 
Other than trying to intimidate the media, the lawsuit makes no sense.  I'd also note that many of Melania's past photo shoot jobs will not exactly help to make her look like an aggrieved, almost virginal political wife.   I hope the Daily Mail (or more to the point, its insurance carrier) plays hardball and hits Melania with all kinds of subpoenas immediately. 

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