Melania Trump Sues Daily Mail & A Blogger Over Stories, Using Peter Thiel/Hulk Hogan's Lawyer

from the gotta-sue-gotta-sue dept

Last week, we wrote about lawyer Charles Harder -- most well known as the lawyer that Peter Thiel set up with the mission of destroying Gawker -- sending out defamation threat letters on behalf of Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump. The main threat was to the Daily Mail, for posting a story about a book and magazine article that made some accusations claiming that Melania had worked as an escort via the modeling agency that she worked for. As I noted in the original post, while the story may be false, I didn't see how defamation charges would stick, seeing as the Daily Mail was reporting (accurately) on what the article and book had published, and also noted some inconsistencies and questions about how factual the allegations were. In addition, I still don't see how they could get to the "with actual malice" standard required for defamation of a public figure.

Either way, it appears that Melania and Harder have decided to go for it, and have filed a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail, filed in Maryland (for what it's worth, in the comments to our last story, some accused me of being mistaken for using US defamation law, since the Daily Mail is in the UK -- but since it was a US lawyer, it seemed fairly obvious that any lawsuit would likely be in the US -- and that's now been proven true). You can read the filing here.
Trump asserts that the The Daily Mail consciously doubted the truth of the claims in the article, but decided to publish it anyway, and that reporters there can't simply rely on "unsubstantiated" claims and "an unauthorized book written by malicious and bitter 'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump."

"The conduct of Daily Mail was despicable, abhorrent, intentional, malicious and oppressive, and thus justifies an award of punitive damages," states the complaint.

Besides defamation, Trump is also suing for tortious interference, contending that the published statements have gotten in the way of her "numerous" licensing and endorsement deals.
The lawsuit not only targets the Daily Mail, but also a blogger by the name of Webster Griffin Tarpley who had written about Melania Trump as well on his Tarpley.net website. It may seem a bit odd to be going after a random blogger, though from the lawsuit, it seems like the case against Tarpley is at least somewhat stronger. Tarpley seemed to make a number of statements of fact that, if false, may very well be defamatory. What is a bit odd is that Harder had sent a threat letter to Tarpley, and he removed the blog post almost immediately and apologized. That doesn't (in any way) get him off the hook if the article was defamatory, but it's a bit odd to still sue after the removal. Separately, it's at least marginally difficult to believe the claims, as stated in the lawsuit, that this random blog post on a blog almost no one has heard of could somehow "cause substantial damage" to Melania Trump's "business, career, reputation and her actual and prospective economic relationships." What business is not going to do business with Melania Trump because a random blogger made some false statements about her?

It will be interesting to see how this case progresses. At a first pass, it seems like the Daily Mail has a much stronger argument than the blogger, but it's still bizarre that the potential First Lady to be would be spending time suing a random blogger for an article that, from the quotes in the lawsuit, could likely be seen as rhetorical hyperbole. And, really, all that the lawsuit does is bring more attention to the original claims about Trump. It's possible that Tarpley was included just for jurisdiction purposes, to get the case into a Maryland court (notably: Maryland has a famously weak anti-SLAPP law, and efforts to improve it have failed). Still, the whole case seems odd, and seems like, once again, using the courts to bully publications.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 5:18pm

    As for the selection of where-to-file-to-get-the-biggest-bang, doesn't the UK have more thin-skinned-friendly libel/defamation laws anyway?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:19pm

      Re:

      Yes, I think they do.

      If what Harder is doing is wrong, they could acquire their own litigation investors to fight back. Let the billionaires battle each other.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:20pm

      Re:

      UK libel tourism is so bad that it gave rise to the US SPEECH act to counter it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Howard II, 2 Sep 2016 @ 4:05am

      Re:

      OTOH, UK courts are probably less likely to entertain hundred-million dollar/pound claims. I think the largest latter-day award was £1 million (there's a £1.5m award from 1945 but not really relevant to the world today).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:20pm

    '...but it's still bizarre that the potential First Lady to be would be spending time suing a random blogger for an article that, from the quotes in the lawsuit, could likely be seen as rhetorical hyperbole.'

    Indeed, I wonder wherever she could have picked up that habit...

    '...on behalf of Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump.'

    Ah yes, that would certainly do it. Whether she picked up the mindset from her husband or had it before they even met, it seems the two of them are a perfect fit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ALW, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:30pm

    ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

    Since when do you have to meet and speak with someone before writing about them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:38pm

      Re: ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

      Since forever, obviously.

      I mean haven't you ever wondered why there's absolutely no modern books or articles talking about the words and/or deeds of the US founding fathers for example? It's because it's flat out impossible(not to mention downright rude) to write about someone without speaking with them in person first.

      Same thing with more modern figures, if you haven't personally met and spoken to them(no, phone call/email/mail doesn't count) then you can't write or say anything about them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 4:23am

      Re: ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

      It's not like you can write horrible things about Trump just watching him speak publicly, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      madasahatter (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 6:25am

      Re: ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

      If the person is living, you should try to talk them and get their side of the story. Most people will only know/tell part of the story and failure to get the full story will lead to situations like this. Also, some people have vendetta against the person and are likely to print/say any rumor no matter how outlandish as a fact.

      After the suit was filed I believe the Daily Mail surrendered by publishing a retraction. This indicates the editors, once they did their job, realized the original article was malicious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 6:58am

        Re: Re: ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

        "This indicates the editors, once they did their job, realized the original article was malicious."

        It's the Daily Mail. The job of their editors is to create the most biased, often false, always malicious articles and then try to guide the paper away from legal action when someone notices how bad it is (usually not their braindead regular readers, who actually believe the things they write). That's been happening for decades over there.

        No, the lawsuit didn't make them realise anything. The lawsuit made them take evasive action, then point out the plausible deniability they try to shoehorn into articles as a safeguard.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2016 @ 11:41am

        Re: Re: ...'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump.

        If the person is living, you should try to talk them and get their side of the story.

        I wasn't aware of that part of libel law. Citation, please.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nigel, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:48pm

    That #screamingcheeto's wife is allegedly a slut should come as a surprise to no one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2016 @ 12:15am

      Response to: Nigel on Sep 1st, 2016 @ 6:48pm

      Well, she definitely did irreparable harm to her reputation by marrying the drumpf.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:37pm

    Trump asserts that the The Daily Mail consciously doubted the truth of the claims in the article, but decided to publish it anyway, and that reporters there can't simply rely on "unsubstantiated" claims and "an unauthorized book written by malicious and bitter 'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump."


    So questioning the veracity of something is now "relying on it".

    Of course, these people clearly know the value of the public hearing the wrong thing first, even if it is reported in the negative, since they make use of it at every opportunity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 9:20pm

    She's just a gold digging slut to begin with. Why else would she be with Trump?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:41pm

    Suing the blogger is just mean spirited. Remember when punching down was something you were supposed to frown upon instead of cheer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2016 @ 12:17am

    "The conduct of Daily Mail was despicable, abhorrent, intentional, malicious and oppressive, and thus justifies an award of punitive damages," states the complaint“

    read: as all public speeches by trump ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 12:25am

    "The conduct of Daily Mail was despicable, abhorrent, intentional, malicious and oppressive"

    Weirdly, I'd normally agree with this as a good general description of them, but I don't think it applies in this case. For most other "articles" there, sure.

    "it's a bit odd to still sue after the removal"

    Not really. Trump has proven himself to be an extremely thin-skinned bully who holds personal grudges for no particular reason. Ignoring an apology to make life difficult for a small target is par for the course where he's involved.

    "it's still bizarre that the potential First Lady to be would be spending time suing a random blogger"

    But not bizarre for her husband to deal in such petty behaviour. The only question is how much he, rather than her, is driving this whole process..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 2:44am

      Re:

      The conduct of Daily Mail is always despicable and abhorrent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Sep 2016 @ 6:59pm

        Re: Re:

        > The conduct of Daily Mail is always despicable and abhorrent.

        Which is why it leaves such a sour after-taste, that intellectual honesty and integrity require one to take the side of the Daily Mail (a.k.a. the "Daily Fail") on this matter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 7:14am

    I'm HEARING that Melania Trump is a high-priced slut. I don't know that it's true, but I'm HEARING it said by some people. See, that's how you're supposed to do it, just like Trump does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2016 @ 7:37am

    How is it possible that we are we still contemplating giving the nuclear launch codes to children?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cliff, 3 Sep 2016 @ 8:33am

    It's so hard to choose sides...

    It's one of those cases where I hope there's only losers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2016 @ 12:02pm

    The blogger is included to keep it in state court.

    Gawker deserved for its "journalism". So do Rupert Murdoch.

    Who pays has no bearing on merits. Murdoch already retracted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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