First lady Melania Trump won the first round of a $150 million libel suit she filed against a Maryland blogger over a report he published last summer about claims that Trump worked as a “high-end escort.”
According to Politico,
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell rejected arguments from lawyers for blogger Webster Tarpley to dismiss Trump’s suit for failing to meet the “actual malice” standard for public figures. The judge also turned down Tarpley’s effort to dismiss the suit under a Maryland law aimed at quickly shutting down bad-faith lawsuits intended to intimidate people speaking out on issues of public concern.
“The court finds the plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation,” Burrell ruled after hearing arguments on the issue in a Rockville courtroom. “The court believes most people, when they hear the words ‘high-end escort’ that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute.”
However, at the conclusion of a roughly two-hour-long hearing, it was unclear whether the first lady would be allowed to proceed against another, deeper-pocketed defendant in the Maryland suit–the New York-based corporate affiliate of London’s Daily Mail newspaper. That outlet published a similar account to Tarpley’s last August.
An attorney for Mail Media, Kelli Sager, argued Maryland was the wrong place for a New York resident like Trump to sue a New York company, Sager also disclosed that Melania Trump is also suing the parent company of the Daily Mail newspaper in a London court for libel over the same article that appeared on the Mail website.
Both Tarpley and the Mail retracted their articles after receiving complaints from Trump’s lawyers.
A lawyer for Tarpley, Danielle Giroux, insisted that Tarpley wasn’t vouching for the truth of the allegations he aired, but simply publicizing the fact that there were rumors that had a potential to impact the presidential campaign.
“He did not say that Melania Trump was a high-class escort. What he said was there are rumors about that,” the attorney said. “He’s writing about the rumors and that, itself, is newsworthy.”
However, Trump attorney Charles Harder said it was evident from Tarpley’s post that he was endorsing the accuracy of the claims, particularly by referring to them as “widely known.”
Continue reading at Politico