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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threats to The New York Times for reporting allegations that he committed sexual assault are legally far-fetched and provide a troubling portrait of how a Trump administration would handle the press, according to experts interviewed by Media Matters.

In just the past 24 hours, outlets including The New York TimesPalm Beach Post, and People magazine have detailed accounts of Trump groping and making other unwanted sexual advances toward women.

Trump’s lawyers shot back with threats of legal action against the Times, claiming in a letter that its article was “reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se.”

Aggression toward media figures and outlets — especially those who have been critical of him and his candidacy — has been a hallmark of both Trump’s presidential campaign and his business career. In an “unprecedented” announcement, the Committee to Protect Journalists warned today that “a Donald Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom,” saying Trump has “consistently betrayed First Amendment values.”

Several experts tell Media Matters his latest threats of legal action against the Times are further evidence of what would likely be a problematic relationship between the press and Trump if he were to be elected president.

“It just confirms how difficult he would be with the press and how he would view the press as an enemy,” George Freeman, Media Law Resource Center executive director and former New York Times assistant legal counsel, said about the latest attack. “It would be a very contentious relationship in all probability, particularly in that his whole character is built on beating up anyone who attacks him.”

Mizell Stewart III, president of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and vice president of news operations for USA Today Network, agreed.

“I think it is clear he would take an adversarial position with the press as president,” Stewart said. “Mr. Trump has decided that an aggressive posture is his way of dealing with the media. We have seen that in him in dealing with news outlets and coverage.”

“From ASNE’s perspective, these are tactics that people employ when they choose to try to intimidate the press. We have watched as newsroom leaders across the country have chosen to oppose that intimidation.”

David Hudson, a Vanderbilt University law professor and First Amendment expert, said: “It is fair to say it would not be the coziest relationship between the press and the president.”

“These are not good signs,” Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said about the legal threats“It is certainly not positive. There have not been any positive signs of how he would interact with the press.”

Leslie and others also said Trump would have a nearly impossible time proving libel or slander for these news reports.

“It’s pretty clear that he would have a very difficult battle if he brought this as a libel suit. He is one of the biggest public figures and would have to prove they acted with malice, which is one of the toughest to prove,” Leslie said.

Hudson added, “As a public figure he has a very high standard to meet. He would have to show that not only are the statements false, but the media would have published them knowing they are false.”

“A lot of times people say they are going to sue as an intimidation tactic,” he explained. “I would not want to print allegations like that unless I had some concrete evidence of it. [The New York Times] is a very respected newspaper; I would assume they have their own attorneys and vet things like this.”

Lucy Dalglish, an attorney and dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said the Times article seemingly went beyond what was necessary to avoid such litigation.

“Because he’s a public figure, he would have to show it put him in a bad light and [was done] with malice and with the knowledge it was false and reckless disregard,” she said. “It seems to me the Times went well beyond with people who remembered being told about these incidents virtually immediately or in an acceptable amount of time. … He has to prove that the statement that was made was false. The burden of proof is on him to show it is false.”

Freeman of the Media Law Resource Center called the legal claim “a pure loser.”

“I think it’s all bluster,” he said. “But it’s not surprising given that he is always threatening litigation. As a presidential candidate, he would have to prove actual malice. … It seems to me it would be virtually impossible for Trump to even come close to showing the Times had serious doubts about the claims of groping when the women seem so credible and it was confirmed and substantiated by many other people they had spoken to.”

The Times’ legal team responded to the lawsuit threat in a letter concluding that if Trump “believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado, U.S., July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

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34 responses to “Experts: Trump’s Legal Threat Against New York Times ‘A Pure Loser’”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    Trump’s reaction to the NYT is classic Donald. A reaction that clearly demonstrates the immaturity and temperament of an overgrown teenager. A man who wants to make America Great Again by silencing freedom of speech. A man who does not hesitate to parade women that claim to have had sexual relations with Bill Clinton, but who does not hesitate to call his own accusers liars. A man whose wife came to his defense, believing in his innocence, and who does not hesitate to call Hillary an enabler for doing the same thing. He is also the same man who has threatened to sue anyone who challenges or criticizes him, and seldom goes through with his threats.
    Last, but not least, he is a man too dumb to understand that the best character witness for his accusers is himself. The statements he has made on his sexually predatory behavior are consistent with what his accusers are claiming. How is he going to sue anyone accusing him of being a sexual predator when he acknowledged as much?

    • dbtheonly says:

      Well put.

      Trump has always been about the bluster, not the substance.

      You see where Melania is threatening to sue People Magazine? I can’t figure out her cause of action. Or maybe she’s just hitting the right buzz words.

    • Mama Bear says:

      I agree with everything you said…except when you referred to him as a “teenager”. You give him way too much credit, Dominick. He is stuck at the 5 year old stage – you know, the stage before children learn (usually the hard way) that they are not the center of the universe and they have to take responsibility for their actions. Most 5 year olds learn that – except for the ones who decide they like that state and just stay there. That is the foundation of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    • Independent1 says:

      All the defense would have to do is play these excerpts from the 2005 tape to prove that Trump has absolutely no defense against what these women are accusing him off – he clearly has admitted to doing exactly what they’re claiming:

      Excerpts from a Washington Post article:

      Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

      “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump
      says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start
      kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

      “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

      “Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

      “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

  2. FireBaron says:

    If I were Teflon Donnie’s lawyers, I would be careful about bringing legal claims against entities that he is likely to lose. The last lawyers that represented him in cases where he did not do as he expected ended up being sued by Teflon Donnie for fraud and malpractice!

  3. Oddworld says:

    As a guest from The NY Times told NPR this morning, “Trump has no case, it isn’t defamatory when the accusations came directly from Trump himself”.

  4. Jon says:

    Trump has proven repeatedly that he does not have any clue what freedoms are guaranteed to citizens by the U.S. Constitution. The only 2 Amendments he has passing familiarity with are the 2nd and 5th Amendments. He has no clue what the limits of presidential power are with respect to repealing amendments or acting in any manner that violates the Constitution. The only thing he knows about the 2nd Amendment is that his rabid supporters and NRA tell him to lie about Hillary’s feelings about it and her power to change it. The only thing he knows about the 5th Amendment is the privilege against self-incrimination which he has often used when under oath. While it is no crime to be ignorant, it is a crime to remain ignorant.

    • Box says:

      In the debate hillary said she supports the 2nd Amend. But Wikileaks shows she intends to begin taking guns by EO and nevermind Congress of the process of law. So what are you talking about and more specifically, what Constitution are you talking about, the one the Progressives (Communists) want to scrap? That one? Here is just one of several articles on the topic of her plan. She plans to repeal by herself so what what did you say about “clue about presidential limits?” Care to re-phrase that?

      Crime to be ignorant? I’ll cover this again but consider something that is truly unbelievable. I watched the 2nd debate on Youtube and while waiting, they ran the Carter-Reagan 1980 debate (which is very well worth watching). On the ride side of the screen they have live commenting. Someone commented, “is this live?” The viewer thought Carter and Reagan were current or replaced candidates for this election and had NO IDEA they were past presidents and one was dead. Ignorance, you say? If I were elected id make it a law that every voter has to pass a 10-question civics test at the polls before voting and if they cannot pass they cannot vote.

      • Jon says:

        You are so ignorant that you have not a clue as to what powers and limits of the branches of government are set out in the U.S. Constitution. You believe all that b.s. propaganda you choose. You are too stupid to waste time on.

      • Independent1 says:

        “But Wikileaks shows she intends to begin taking guns by EO and nevermind Congress of the process of law.”

        Only goes to show that Assange is modifying or even fabrication Hillary’s emails just like Faux News modified some of the White House emails to make their fake Bengahzi scandal seem plausible.

        Only someone totally devoid of understanding (apparently like you and Assange) with respect to how our Constitution is written would believe such a lie – that Hillary could with an EO override the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on the 2nd Amendment.

        Wow!! Assange is getting more dangerous all the time given that he now appears to be manufacturing fake Hillary emails!!!

      • Independent1 says:

        And you realize of course that your last comment is totally unconstitutional – people with reduced mental capacity have as much right to vote for whom they want as you do; whether or not their vote is based on a complete understanding of the candidates agendas – or even who’s running for office. (You are aware that dead people have actually been elected to an office in some local elections??)

        And I recently read where some town actually elected a cat as its mayor.

        Sorry, but you trying to dictate WHO YOU THINK is smart enough to vote wouldn’t fly for one second!!!

      • Independent1 says:

        What I would like to see put into the Constitution is what you suggest but not with respect to voters, but with respect to the candidates running for office; and it should be more than a civic test – like political candidates should have to pass a background check just like is done in most businesses for new hires; and they should have to pass a drug test (we shouldn’t be allowing druggies and known crooks to run for political office).

      • I Am Helpy says:

        It’s amazing you believe this stuff.

  5. JPHALL says:

    Where’s Aggie aka Agatha, Otto, David, Misinformed and the rest of T Rump’s palace guard? You know, the butt kissers who contort reality to protect the object of their greatest desire, the new Fuhrer?

    • Box says:

      Where? Probably sharing the hiding place where hillary ass-kissers are, the ones who refuse to bring in the daily drops of wikileaks.

      • JPHALL says:

        I forgot all about you Box. Maybe that is because you are the most useless troll! Have you bothered to read any of the leaks. They are not by Clinton. In fact they are similar to what you would find on any political operatives email. So sad! You have picked another loser like Romney.

      • Thoughtopsy says:

        Those suggesting Hillary is far more qualified are not hiding.
        You also fail to understand this basic concept:

        Hillary is not a perfect candidate (no-one really is). Her email no doubt contains contentious and unsettling things. However she has a long history of public service, has demonstrated an excellent temperament, and is uniquely qualified for the office.

        Trump on the other hand is a moral sewer that someone has set on fire. He lies, he yells, he insults pretty much everyone who isn’t a Christian white male. He denies responsibility. He directly contradicts himself… sometimes in the same sentence.

        The reason you are not seeing much traction on the Wikileaking is simply that on a scale of 1 to 100 in terms of shock, horror, and demonstration of lack of fitness for the presidency the scores are:
        Hillary’s Wikileaks: 8 / 100
        Trump Claiming he has Sexually Abused Women: 100 / 100

        Trying to make these things equivalent is the very definition of false equivalence.
        Here endeth the lesson.

    • I Am Helpy says:

      I think Otto got banned, or at least a major timeout. There was … an incident.

  6. sherrie.mcdavid says:

    I currently make in the range of 6k-8k dollars /every month for freelance jobs i do at home. For anyone prepared to finish basic computer-based work for 2h-5h /day from your house and get solid payment for doing it… This is a job for you…
    -> If you think this could be for you then check it out here… <-

  7. It’s time that all papers across the country put on their front pages in bold letters headlines denouncing Trump’s sexual deviancy, and visual media should show the same headlines. He’ll be broke in no time trying to sue them all when he’s hit with counter-suits. Then, we’ll see what kind of star-power he’ll have going for him, just as Cosby has found out.

    This is a hound from hell that deserves constant dogging into perpetuity.

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