Donald Trump seems to be showing off what would happen if your prototypical internet troll had way too much money at his disposal. As you may have heard, he's putting on a big show of "running"
for President, though as many have recognized, the move appears to be a hell of a lot more about getting himself publicity (thankfully, at least some news organizations are properly categorizing stories about Trump as entertainment
rather than politics). Of course, the plan to get more attention may be backfiring somewhat, as some of the ridiculous comments he's made "on the campaign" are coming back to bite him -- including Univision cutting ties
with him over the Miss USA telecast and NBC dumping
both the pageants and his Apprentice
series (that thing is still on?).
In response, Trump has filed what has to be one of the funniest lawsuits we've seen in a long time
against Univision over the cancelled deal. It honestly reads like one of those nutty conspiracy theory lawsuits we see all the time, often filed pro se. You'd think that Trump would have trouble finding lawyers willing to file nuttiness on his behalf, but apparently there's always someone. It even resorts to the worst trolling tactic of internet commenters: complaining that his "First Amendment rights" are being violated because Univision dropped him. And it all involves a conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton. Seriously.
While Univision has claimed in the media that its decision to cut ties with MUO came in response to certain comments by Mr. Trump during a June 16, 2015 campaign speech announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, the decision was, in reality, a thinly
veiled attempt by Univision, a privately held company principally owned by longtime Clinton
Foundation donor and current Hillary Clinton fundraiser, Haim Saban, to suppress Mr. Trump's
freedom of speech under the First Amendment as he begins to campaign for the nation's
presidency and, in recent weeks, has dramatically risen in the polls while expressing critical
views of Mrs. Clinton. Little else can explain Univision's decision to not only abandon its
contractual relationship with MUO, but also, upon information and belief, pressure NBC to
follow suit and cut longstanding ties with Plaintiffs nearly two weeks after the statements were
First of all, as all of you (minus a few trolls) are currently screaming right now, no the First Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with this. We'll let the obligatory xkcd explain
The statement is also entirely superfluous to the lawsuit as well, as none of the actual legal claims have anything to do with his First Amendment rights. Apparently Trump could get the lawyers to throw that bit into the description of the case, but when it came time to make actual claims, even the lawyers wouldn't go so far as to make a First Amendment claim.
Also, "little else can explain?" Really? Actually, there are tons
of other explanations, with many of them being a hell of a lot more plausible than any fear of Trump being a legitimate contender for the White House -- for example, the actually stated reason
that Trump out and out offended the entire country of Mexico with some ridiculous statements.
Next up in the internet troll playbook, we have the ridiculous claim of "defamation" over statements that the person doesn't like
, but which are clearly statements of opinion, rather than fact:
In a move which can only be described as both tasteless and defamatory, on June
25, 2015, Mr. Ciurana, Univision's President of Programing and Content, then posted a photo on
his official Univision Instagram account comparing Mr. Trump to Dylann Roof, the 21 year old
who was recently arrested in the murder of nine (9) African-Americans attending bible study at a
church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the worst hate crimes to ever take place on U.S.
soil. While Mr. Cuirana would later remove the defamatory post, the damage was already done:
almost immediately, Mr. Ciurana's post was picked up by the media and became the subject of
hundreds, if not thousands, of press articles, yet another example of Univision's dubious efforts
to create a false narrative in an attempt to upset Mr. Trump's longstanding personal and business
relationship with the Hispanic community.
If you're curious, here's the Instagram that Alberto Ciurana put up:
It's pretty clearly a somewhat weak attempt at humor, mocking the hair cuts of Trump and Roof. Tasteless? Perhaps, but there's no law requiring anyone to be tasteful in their internet jokes. Defamatory? Not in any way, shape or form. Not even close. And yet, unlike the non sequitur (and incorrect) First Amendment claims earlier, the lawsuit actually does
It's entirely possible
that there are legitimate issues concerning breach of contract here, but even most of that seems like a stretch. Because Univision didn't just cut ties with Trump, it actually agreed to pay the full licensing amounts it promised
for the next five years (totaling $13.5 million). In other words, Trump actually didn't lose any direct money from this, because Univision paid up (and, in theory, he could try to license it to someone else, though I'm not sure who would want to pay at this point). But Trump is -- hilariously -- claiming damages of $500 million
because now people won't see the pageants.
Of course, Trump's own arguments undermine his arguments (because of course
they do). The lawsuit repeatedly brags that there was a bidding war earlier this year, in which Univision emerged victorious. Thus, at least a few months ago, other TV media properties wished to broadcast the pageants. If it was true that this was all just a grand conspiracy by Hillary Clinton supporter Saban, then you'd think that Trump could simply move on to whoever else was in that bidding war (while keeping all the money that Univision paid him anyway!). But, of course, if the real reason for the cancellation was because of Trump's comments about Mexico and the concern about how Spanish-speaking audiences felt about that -- well, then Trump wouldn't be able to find that alternative.
The lawsuit is then equally hilarious in arguing that it can't possibly be Trump's offensive comments about Mexico because Trump has said the same offensive crap many times before
. That seems like an odd thing to argue in such a lawsuit, but it's what Trump's lawyers have chosen to claim:
In reality, however, Mr. Trump's calls for immigration reform, particularly with
respect to the U.S.-Mexican border, were nothing new. Indeed, for over a decade, Mr. Trump
had, in numerous television and news interviews, consistently voiced his concerns regarding the
influx of illegal immigrants pouring into the United States across the Mexican border and the
crime that has resulted therefrom, views which were widely reported by every major media
outlet, including, both Univision and NBC.
As Mr. Trump explained in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on March
30, 2011, "[t]hey're coming over, and they're climbing over a fence, and there's nobody within
10 miles -- and they're selling drugs all over the place, they're killing people all over the place --
and we're not doing anything about it."
Indeed. It may be true that Trump has said offensive things in the past, but that doesn't mean that Univision can't later decide that the greater attention paid to his more recent offensive comments are such that it no longer wishes to do business with him. There's no rule anywhere that says, "Well, if you didn't complain four years ago when I said some stupid shit, you can't complaint now!" Even if it's true that Univision is only making this decision because Trump's comments went a bit viral, that's Univision's decision to make, and his previous comments are completely meaningless.
Frankly, this lawsuit is absolutely hilarious. The chances of it going anywhere are pretty slim. The First Amendment arguments are ridiculous, but meaningless, as there's no actual legal claim there. The defamation claims are going to get laughed out of court. The whole thing is fairly hilarious, and fits in with the designation of Trump as "entertainment" rather than anything even remotely serious.