Trump Campaign Loses Defamation Lawsuit Against New York Times
The lawsuit by former President Donald Trump‘s campaign that accused The New York Times of defaming it was dismissed by the Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge, James d’Auguste, on Tuesday.
The 2019 opinion column, written by former Times executive editor Max Frankel, argued a “quid pro quo” between the campaign and Russia in 2016. The suit was filed in February 2020 and sought damages of millions of dollars.
Trump and his campaign claimed that the Times published false and defamatory claims in the op-ed, titled “The Real Trump-Russian Quid Pro Quo,” in a effort to damage Trump’s reelection chances.
In the first paragraph of his op-ed, Frankel wrote:
“There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions.”
In a three-page ruling, d’Auguste wrote that Frankel’s column was legally protected opinion and that the lawsuit failed to find evidence of the intentional damage.
“The court made clear today a fundamental point about press freedom: we should not tolerate libel suits that are brought by people in power intending to silence and intimidate those who scrutinize them,” said David McCraw, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for the Times.
“We are pleased that the court has delivered that message powerfully,” McCraw continued.
The Times proceeded to request a monetary sanction from the Trump campaign, but the judge denied it.
D’Auguste said in his ruling dismissing the campaign’s suit that the op-ed was “nonactionable opinion.”
“And the overall context in which the article was published, in the opinion section of the newspaper, signaled to the reader that ‘the broader social context and surrounding circumstances [indicate] that what is being read… is likely to be opinion, not far,’ ” d’Auguste wrote, quoting from a federal appeals court ruling in another lawsuit filed against the Times.
Additionally, the judge said the lawsuit had to be dismissed because the Trump campaign challenged statements that concern the plaintiff, being Trump, which is a “necessary element for a defamation action.”
“A corporate entity has no standing to sue over statements that concern an entity’s employees or affiliates, but not the entity itself,” d’Auguste wrote.
Trump’s campaign cannot refile the lawsuit.