It certainly isn’t the first time a blogger has been sued, but this may be the most high-profile lawsuit against a blogger, and I just hope it doesn’t set a precedent. Yes, Melania Trump filed two lawsuits in the State of Maryland yesterday (1 September). The blogger is Webster Tarpley, a 69-year-old author, journalist and self-described “philosopher of history.” Webster published his story on August 2 on his website, Tarpley.net. It was later retracted, but apparently not before it came under scrutiny by the trumpeters. Melania is also suing the Daily Mail, a UK print and on-line news source. Both lawsuits, as I understand it, are for $150 million. It is what I feared when I first wrote of Melania’s threat to sue various media outlets in a post last week.
Personally, if somebody sued me for $150 million, I would just laugh until I turned blue! “Good luck with that!” is what I would say. I have nothing … the most anybody would get from me is a cat or two! However, this is no laughing matter.
Steve Klepper, an appellate lawyer for the Baltimore law firm Kramon & Graham, said the inclusion of a blogger in the suit indicated legal maneuvering. He told the Guardian: “Anytime you have a filing that adds a minor in-state defendant, it’s a flag that they were joined to prevent removal to federal court. And as we know, Donald Trump has not been having been the best luck in federal court recently.” A legal maneuver to keep the case in Maryland … apparently the only reason for naming Tarpley in the suit. Now I wonder, what shrewd lawyer is behind that move?
The attorney of record is none other than Charles Harder, the lead counsel to former wrestling pro Hulk Hogan in the lawsuit against Gawker Media for invasion of privacy. The case settled for $140 million, which effectively bankrupted Gawker. In May, The New York Times revealed that the controversial lawsuit was secretly bankrolled by Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder who reportedly harbored a personal vendetta against Gawker after it published an article that outed Thiel as being gay. Prior to representing Hogan, Harder had gained a reputation for defending Hollywood A-list stars in privacy rights claims. Among his past clients are Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Halle Berry, George Clooney, and Clint Eastwood.
That said, Webster Tarpley isn’t all that much of a noble blogger just trying to keep the public informed, as most of us are trying to do during this divisive election year. Nor is he, like most of us, just a small-time blogger … he actually has editors, writers and contributors to his blog, which presumably puts him in a league apart from myself and my fellow bloggers on WordPress. Even so, at the risk of him suing me for defamation, I will stick my neck out and say he is somewhat of a nutcase. I make this assessment, admittedly, based on one fact I learned while researching him, that he has written and talked about several conspiracy theories and claims that 9/11 was a ‘false flag operation’. I pretty much automatically put conspiracy theorists into the ‘nutcase’ category. So, I am not quite as appalled over him being sued as I would be a single blogger writing a blog for purposes other than profit. Still, I do not want to see it become a trend. While we all try not to make false assertions, it is going to happen from time-to-time, and none of us wish to be afraid to write what we believe in for fear of a lawsuit.
“Defendant’s actions are so egregious, malicious and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are estimated at $150m,” Mr. Harder’s statement said. I question this … seriously question it. There is no evidence whatsoever that Melania has been ridiculed in public nor that it has particularly hurt her husband’s campaign. Nobody has thrown tomatoes at her or taken a pot shot. She is not damaged, she is, like her husband, very thin-skinned! Still, thin-skinned people are, as we have seen with D. Trump, are dangerous, for they frequently and viciously take retaliation against those who they perceive as having wronged them. Trump has threatened to sue media outlets even when their assertions were undeniably and verifiably true! And let’s face it … Melania needs $150 million about as much as I need another headache! She is as arrogant as her husband and neither of them, apparently, give a whit about anything other than $$$$$$.
So, what are the chances of Trump winning her lawsuit? I quote BBC Legal Affairs Correspondent, Clive Coleman:
“For Melania Trump to succeed in a defamation action in the US she would have to prove that the Daily Mail acted maliciously.
In other words, she would have to provide evidence that the British newspaper was aware that the allegations were false and yet went on ‒ deliberately and maliciously ‒ to publish them.
That would be a very difficult task, especially as it is clear that the paper had sources for the story. So the chances of a successful claim in the US are remote.
However, the position would be different if Mrs Trump sued here [UK]. She clearly has a reputation in the UK ‒ she is a global figure and is entitled to bring a claim.
If she could prove that the published allegations were defamatory and that she had suffered serious harm as a result, it would be hard for the Daily Mail to defend an action. Also, in light of its retraction it could not argue that it was justified in publishing.
The big difference is that the maximum damages for a defamation claim here would be about £300,000 ‒ a fraction of the $150m (£112m) Mrs Trump’s lawyers say the claim is worth.”
With more than 3,500 lawsuits under his belt, Melania’s husband is no stranger to legal proceedings and it seems to be his favourite means of settling disagreements. Melania placed herself in the position of being ridiculed of her own volition. She is a public figure no better than any other. What if Michelle Obama had sued every time she was criticized or lied about? The Daily Mail and Tarpley both issued retractions, yet the lawsuit proceeds. I sincerely hope she gains not a single penny and has a sizable legal bill at the end of the day. I, for one, will continue to speak my mind on my blog and will not pull any punches out of fear of a trumpeter … any of them! That said, I did have a dream last night that Trump was forcing me to clean all the bathrooms in Trump Towers as punishment for all the things I have said about him!