As if the press didn’t have enough problems on its hands, with advertising migrating to Google, Facebook et al, it’s now being hammered by vast lawsuits from rich Americans.
The Daily Mail is being sued by Melania Trump, Donald’s third wife, for “their many lies include, among others, that Mrs. Trump supposedly was an ‘escort’ in the 1990s before she met her husband” according to Mrs Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder.
Harder also acted for Hulk Hogan in an invasion of privacy suit, funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, that bankrupted Gawker Media and founder Nick Denton, a Brit who used to work on the Financial Times. A US court awarded $140m damages. Mrs Trump is seeking $150m. The Trump suit also names US blog Tarpley. The allegations seem to have emerged in an Italian book and a Slovenian magazine. Melania Trump (below) was Slovenian. The two married in 2005.
The Mail has “retracted” its story saying: “The article …did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true, nor did it intend to state or suggest that Mrs. Trump ever worked as an ‘escort’ or in the ‘sex business'” and that it “regrets any such misinterpretation.”
So the Mail, which usually takes a bullish position in these matters, is on the run. Politicians or their close associates don’t usually sue as it’s more trouble than it’s likely to be worth. Trump, though, is not a normal politician. America’s new class of billionaires seem quite happy to take on big media owners and, such is their lofty view of their status and reputation, sue for vast amounts of money. Claiming that you’re simply reporting rumours that are already out there is a shaky defence, particularly when faced with such firepower.
The Mail, unlike Gawker, could take a $150m hit but it would still be painful. And the assumptions underlying much tabloid “reporting” are being challenged as never before.