It was just about a week ago that President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed a lawsuit against The New York Times accusing the paper of defamation and libel, and it now appears that was just an opening salvo in a broader push to put a check on the bias of the mainstream media establishment.
The Hill reported that the Trump campaign on Monday also filed a lawsuit against The Washington Post that similarly claimed that the media outlet purposely sought to defame and libel the president and his campaign by knowingly publishing false information with an intent to harm its reputation and chances of re-election.
Libel suit filed
At issue in this latest lawsuit are two opinion articles published by the Post in June of 2019, both of which appeared to assert as established fact — purportedly proven by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — conspiratorial connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and which included assertions that Trump would again solicit and receive assistance from a foreign government to win an election.
Of course, the Mueller investigation didn’t establish any of those things as facts and actually ended up declaring that there was no criminal conspiracy involving anyone from the Trump campaign and any foreign government, much less the Russians.
The campaign’s legal complaint decries what it argues is an egregious display of “extreme bias” and claims that the defamatory articles caused financial harm to the campaign by forcing it to expend resources countering false assertions from the media, damages for which the campaign seeks unspecified, yet substantial compensation.
“The defamatory article has forced, and will force the campaign, to expend funds on corrective advertisements and to otherwise publicize the facts that it did not conspire with Russia in 2016 and is not seeking Russia’s or North Korea’s help in the 2020 election,” the lawsuit claimed. “The campaign was damaged in the millions of dollars, the specific amount to be proven at trial.”
Let the fight commence
In a statement to Fox News, Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said: “The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory.
“The complaint alleges The Post was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process,” she added.
The Post responded to the lawsuit with a statement of its own to Fox News that called the complaint “disappointing.” The paper vowed to “vigorously defend” itself.
Uphill legal battle
To be sure, the odds of success for this lawsuit as well as the one filed against the Times are low, given the high bar that must be cleared in order to prove defamation and libel — namely, the burden to prove that both outlets knew the claims about the campaign were false prior to publishing but were made anyway with either actual malice to harm the campaign or a reckless disregard for the truth.
Of course, while that kind of actual malice and reckless disregard may be patently obvious to the president’s supporters and other fair-minded observers, proving it decisively in court is a different matter altogether.
Regardless, these lawsuits serve as a broadside warning to the mainstream media that “fake news” and opinions disguised as supposed “facts” will no longer be allowed to fly without the purveyors of such being called to public account.