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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Columns

Melania Trump’s libel suit is an abuse of status as first lady


 

Earlier this month, first lady Melania Trump refiled a libel lawsuit against Daily Mail, a British newspaper. This action followed the first lady’s settlement on a previous libel lawsuit against a Maryland blogger, Webster Tarpley.

In August 2016, Tarpley published an article that claimed Trump worked for modeling agencies as an escort in the ’90s. Tarpley issued an apology to the Trump family and is paying the Trumps for damages. The Daily Mail published a similar story, which led the first lady to refile the suit in New York.

Trump’s libel lawsuit is unprecedented because no president or first lady have ever filed such a suit. However, this isn’t the strange part about the suit. Her attorney isn’t arguing any damages to Trump’s personal reputation, but rather her financial position.

The lawsuit claims that Trump has a “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff (Trump) is one of the most photographed women in the world.

Trump should not use her position as first lady to further her own personal and financial interests. First ladies before Trump have shown humbleness and respect for their position, and with these words, Trump seems to have disregarded her position.

Furthermore, since the landmark Supreme Court case of New York Times Co. v Sullivan, a strict standard has been in place for public figures claiming defamation. Trump’s position as first lady puts her in the public spotlight and unless her attorney can prove that there was malice and an absolute disregard for the validity of the statement, Trump should not be allowed to collect $150 million in damages.  

Since the suit was filed, Trump has received criticism for the statement, and her attorney has been quick to claim that her words were misinterpreted. However, her attorney fails to explain what the statement did mean. There aren’t many ways to interpret such a straightforward statement. Trump’s position as first lady puts her in the spotlight, and this would be an opportunity for her to expand her brand.

Although the trial will not be held until Nov. 6, it seems that Trump has already displayed a conflict of interest. Only time will tell how this will play out.

Fariha Jawed is an accounting and political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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