Why Donald Trump, Not The 'New York Times,' Should Worry About This Lawsuit
Donald Trump seems to finally be making good on his empty threats and going ahead with a lawsuit against The New York Times. Trump's lawyers sent a letter to The Times and said that if the article about allegations that Trump sexually assaulted two women wasn't retracted, Trump would respond with "all available actions and remedies." But this threat has so far failed to inspire even the the tiniest shred of fear in The Times' legal department, which responded with their own, even more strongly worded letter.
And this came after Trump verbally attacked the press for months, blacklisted news outlets from covering his campaign, announced plans to loosen libel laws should he become president, and claimed that his lawyers wanted to sue for the nonexistent charge of "irresponsible intent." It's no secret that Trump has been on a crusade against the press for a long time.
On Wednesday night, The Times published an article about two women who claimed that Trump had groped them without their consent, setting off an avalanches of similar stories from women who claimed similar things. Trump has denied the Times story, and called the reporter who reached out to him a "disgusting human being." And now, it looks like he's heading toward legal action, but he has more to fear from such a lawsuit than The Times does, because they would have the legal power to investigate and reveal Trump's questionable past.
The Times' letter shows that, after 164 years of publishing, the newspaper isn't worried about having to stop after being served with a Trump lawsuit. The response brushes off the idea of a lawsuit by a self-professed billionaire as if it belonged in small-claims court. And it makes it clear that as Trump craters in the polls, the presidential candidate is far weaker than The Gray Lady.
One of the most striking aspects of the letter is its defense of attacks on Trump's reputation: "Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself." The Times correctly points out that Trump has spent the past year highlighting the most distasteful aspects of himself. America has heard his worst thoughts in his own words.
If Trump, in the middle of a campaign desperately swimming upriver, decides to pick a fight with the paper like the Times, it's hard to wonder who would win. Charles M. Blow, one of The Times' weekly columnists, is ready:
If a case really did go to court, it would, by necessity, involve discovery, with both sides revealing any relevant evidence to the case. So Trump, who wants to sue a newspaper for revealing potentially damaging information about his past, would be forced to reveal much more information to that very newspaper. If it got past that, any suit would rely on the 1964 precedent of a Supreme Court case which ruled that "actual malice" — knowledge that published information is false — is needed to prosecute libel cases, which Trump's lawyers would have an incredibly difficult time proving. The Times, on the other hand, has a bit of experience with the concept — that 1964 case was New York Times v. Sullivan. So it's safe to say that Trump should be more worried about the lawsuit he's threatening, and he might want to consider the implications of that if he wants to maintain this trustworthy facade.