Donald Trump seemingly hates the First Amendment, specifically the free press. So much so, he wants to change our libel laws if he’s president to prevent the press from running embarrassing or negative stories about him.
But after the Billy Bush tape surfaced the press is full of embarrassing stories about Trump, and so his team of lawyers went to work, telling the New York Times, which published a piece Wednesday from two women who claim Trump made unwanted advances towards them physically, to issue a retraction and apology — or face a libel lawsuit.
The Times response to Trump’s legal team is everything (emphasis mine):
Dear Mr. Kasowitz:
I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States. You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.
The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about this non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slights effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.
But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance – indeed, as an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he 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.
David E. McCraw
The last bit about having the court set Trump straight is beautiful — Trump’s reputation is in tatters because of Trump.
The Times is not f*cking around here, they’re daring Trump’s legal team to try to bring a libel suit against them. They’ve done their due diligence and aren’t about to acquiesce to the wishes of a billionaire bully because he’s embarrassed.
To be fair, libel is a crime and is not protected by the First Amendment, but to try to silence two women who allege Trump acted abusively towards them says it all — that Trump will do anything to quiet the scores of women who threaten to bring his private assaults to the public. It’s doubtful his legal team believes Trump has a real case here. But it’s likely they’re doing this to prevent further stories from seeing the light of day.
Well done, NYT!
Featured image via Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images