Charles Harder Sends Ridiculous Threat Letter To People On Behalf Of Melania Trump
from the do-you-even-know-what-defamation-means? dept
Oh Charles Harder. You just keep supplying more and more fodder for Techdirt stories. You may remember Harder as the lawyer thrust into the public realm after Peter Thiel allegedly bankrolled him to start a new law firm with a focus on taking on any lawsuit that might help bring down Gawker. Having succeeded in bringing down Gawker through dubious lawsuits, Harder has moved on (well, not entirely) to bigger fish, including Roger Ailes and Melania Trump.
And while Donald Trump has been focusing his defamation threats mostly on the NY Times, Melania and Harder have decided to focus on People Magazine. As you probably have heard by now, among the fairly long list of articles that came out on Wednesday and Thursday involving women saying that Donald Trump sexually assaulted (or engaged in other sketchy behavior) was a really disturbing story at People Magazine, where People writer Natasha Stoynoff wrote about Trump pushing her against the wall and kissing her, while she was there to interview both Donald and Melania. In fact, Stoynoff claims that the assault happened during a break in the interview with the couple, while a pregnant Melania had gone upstairs to change.
Some people had been asking how Melania had been reacting to this story, which (unlike many of the other accusations) much more closely involved her, in that it took place while she was in the home and happened to a reporter who was writing a story on the couple. Well, now we know. Melania tweeted out a retraction demand to People written by Charles Harder. And it’s even more ridiculous that Harder’s usual threat letters. The crux of it is that Melania denies a few unimportant side details of the article around Stoynoff’s claim that she ran into Melania a year or so later, after she’d left the Trump beat (because of Trump’s actions). Harder claims that Melaina never ran into Stoynoff:
The following statements in the Story, among others, are false and completely fictionalized. We therefore demand that you immediately and permanently remove each of these statements from the Story, and print a prominent retraction and apology:
- “That winter, I actually bumped into Melania on Fifth Avenue, in front of Trump Tower as she walked into the building, carrying baby Barron.”
- “‘Natasha, why don?t we see you anymore?’ she asked, giving me a hug.”
- “I was quiet and smiled, telling her I?d missed her, and I squeezed little Barron?s foot.”
The true facts are these: Mrs. Trump did not encounter Ms. Stoynoff on the street, nor have any conversation with her. The two are not friends and were never friends or even friendly. At the time in question, Mrs. Trump would not have even recognized Ms. Stoynoff if they had encountered one another on the street.
Harder then claims that if People does not remove and retract those statements then it “will require Mrs. Trump to consider her legal options.”
Let’s put this simply: Mrs. Trump’s legal options are… nothing. Nada. Zilch. Note that Harder did not claim that any of these statements are defamatory. Because even he must know that they are not defamatory even if they are false. There is no harm in those statements. There is no nothing. They are just someone remembering what may have happened. Even if it didn’t happen, that doesn’t create any legal liability or problem, and it’s certainly not defamation.
As with Donald, it seems like these weak ass legal “threat” letters seem more designed to scare off others with the knowledge that if you come forward or if you publish a story about someone who comes forward, the Trump team of lawyers will hassle you in some manner or another.
But, really, this particular letter is so weak and so empty of any actual issue, that you have to wonder what the hell is going on. Is it that Melania demanded something be done and this was the best that Harder could muster up given the lack of anything legitimate to whine about? Could it be that Harder thinks he can actually bully People into pulling these minor facts? It’s not at all clear, and while I guess maybe (?!?) this helps Harder in that clueless censorious celebrities know they can go to him and he’ll send clearly ridiculous threat letters on their behalf, for lots of other people, it just undermines any credibility Harder has on the subject of defamation and free speech. He looks completely foolish and petty.