ROCKVILLE, MD, February 7, 2017 – Donald Trump is not the only fighter in the family. Feminists should stand up and cheer first lady Melania Trump who has prevailed in her libel suit against Webster Tarpley, a Maryland blogger.
The lesson to be learned is that those that would attack the first lady or her family, might do well to think twice. Or at least make sure they check their sources before publishing.
Two lawsuits were filed last year in the circuit court in Montgomery County, Maryland. Mrs. Trump sued defendants, Mail Media parent company of the Daily Mail and Webster Tarpley, who published the blog Tarpley.net in Montgomery County, for publishing falsehoods about her.
In his August 2 blog post, Tarpley cited rumors that Trump was having an “apoplectic fit” after the “plagiarism incident” at the GOP convention. He also alleged that she feared the media revealing that she worked as a “high-end escort.”
Media Mail picked up and repeated the allegations in a story published on August 20, 2016 with the headline, “Racy photos, and the troubling questions about his wife’s past that could derail Trump” as well as being published on dailymail.co.uk with the headline “Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won’t go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump’s Slovenian wife.”
After receiving calls from Mrs. Trump’s lawyers, The Daily Mail did post a retraction on their website in late August saying:
“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.”
Mrs. Trump’s suit stated that she “did legitimate and legal modeling work for legitimate business entities. Plaintiff was not an escort or a prostitute. Plaintiff did not have an apoplectic fit, apoplectic tantrum, nervous breakdown or mental breakdown, nor is she terrified or obsessed by fear about revelations from her past. Finally, Plaintiff never refused to return to the campaign trail or contemplated flight.”
The suit further claimed Tarpley published the post while “consciously doubting the truth of the claims and thus acted with actual malice.” The finding of malice, intentionally acting to cause harm and a higher burden of proof, is often required in a libel lawsuit filed against a public figure.
As to the suit against Tarpley, Maryland Judge Sharon Burrell ruled:
“The court finds the plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation,” Burrell ruled after hearing arguments on the issue in a Rockville courtroom. “The court believes most people, when they hear the words ‘high-end escort’ that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute.”
The first lady’s settlement terms included Tarpley agreeing to print a retraction, apologize to the first lady and her family and pay a substantial sum.
Tarpley had argued that Mrs. Trump’s suit was a “direct affront to First Amendment principles.” Danielle Giroux, Tarpley’s lawyer said that when covering matters of “public concern” bloggers are entitled to publish facts they haven’t personally verified.
“A reporter does not have to publish only statements that he knows are true,” she said. “They are not required to do an investigation.”
Giroux also argued that the publication of Trump’s modeling photos and claims that she plagiarized her RNC speech led her to have a “mental breakdown” explaining her absence from the campaign trail where hyperbole.
“It’s the flourish reporters use so the way they present the facts isn’t so dry,” the lawyer explained.
Judge Burrell dismissed Giroux’s arguments as “word games”.
Tarpley’s official apology stated:
“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her. I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”
Finding for Mrs. Trump in Rockville, Maryland this week may well provide precedence for Mrs. Trump lawsuit against Mail Media, the parent company of the Daily Mail who had also published the falsehoods against Mrs. Trump.
Today, Mrs. Trump’s attorney’s re-filed her action in the New York after her first lawsuit, filed in the Maryland courts, against the media corporation was dismissed due to jurisdictional matters. Mail Media claimed that a suit against a New York business, brought by a New York resident, should be heard in New York.
In her lawsuit, Mrs. Trump’s attorney stated that the publication of the story online had damaged her reputation and commercial prospects.
Charles Harder, of Mirell & Abrams LLP in Los Angeles, Mrs. Trump’s attorney, says in the suit:
“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.”
Among the false charges made by Daily Mail are that she met Donald Trump, while he was still married to Marla Maples and claimed that she was in a series of “highly-charged, lesbian-themed, number photographs of her said to be taken in New York in 1995”
They wrote that she “had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.”
The lawsuit further claims the articles “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
The lawsuit against Mail Media claims significant emotional and economic damage and seeks financial compensation of at least $150 million, according to the suit filed February 6, 2017 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Read the filing here: Melania-DailyMail)
This isn’t the first time Mrs. Trump has won legal battles over “fake news.” In December the first lady forced YouTube user James Hunter to remove a video posted in November 2016 that alleged thgat Barron Trump may be autistic.
Hunter confirmed that Melania’s lawyers had been in touch:
“I’ve been in contact with Melania Trump’s lawyer. This video will be deleted in 24 hours and I will publish a full retraction and apology to Melania and Barron Trump.”
Hunter also explained the purpose of the video following an outcry against him on social media:
“I made this because I truly believed Barron was on the spectrum, and I wanted people to stop bullying him over his ‘weird’ behavior… I have a great respect for [Melania] and her family. I never meant to hurt anyone.”
However, that is hardly a plausible excuse for his bad behavior in attacking the ten-year-old son of the President and First Lady, particularly with the “hands of the first family kids” rule that has been followed since Chelsea Clinton’s time in the White House.
The video has since been taken down, apologies issued, however, with her prevailing against Tarpley, Hunter may find himself mounting a legal defense.