Douglas Andrews / October 5, 2022

Trump Sues CNN for $475 Million

It’s notoriously difficult for a public figure to win a defamation suit, even when he’s right about the damage.

In case you missed it, Donald Trump is suing CNN for $475 million. And while we love a good lawsuit against the corrupt mainstream media, we also know that Trump’s chances of cashing in are next to zero.

We wish it weren’t so, because the Leftmedia can always use a good clock-cleaning, but the fact is that plaintiffs rarely ever win these cases.

“A lawsuit was filed today against CNN,” said Trump in a statement, “the once prestigious news channel that has devolved into a purveyor of disinformation, defamation, and Fake News, at a level which the American Public, and indeed the World, will not even believe is possible. For years I have watched this take place, often in disbelief, but the time has finally come to hold CNN responsible and legally accountable for their willful deception and defamatory statements made about me and both, directly and indirectly, my strong, devoted, and patriotic supporters — People who love the United States of America, but have been treated very unfairly, at so many levels. ‘The Big Lie’ that they constantly refer to is actually ‘The Big Lie’ in reverse. They know that, and it will be proven in Court!”

Sounds great. But, like we said, he has no chance. Here’s Washington Post media critic Eric Wemple, who, in the aftermath of Sarah Palin’s unsuccessful — but far more compelling — lawsuit against The New York Times, wrote about the extreme unlikelihood of success when a public figure sues a news organization: “Celebrities and political luminaries determined to sue the media for some outrage should have a chat with Sarah Palin. She might just tell them: It’s a slog.”

As Wemple reported, Palin had been suing the Times for three years over its June 2017 editorial, “America’s Lethal Politics.” Her obstacle as a public official was the landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case, which required that she prove “that a media outlet published information that they knew to be false, or with ‘reckless disregard’ to its truth.”

The Times certainly seemed to be reckless in this case, essentially accusing her of having incited a mass murder:

Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

Under fire from eagle-eyed bloggers, the Times later revised the passage to note that “no connection to the shooting was ever established” and that the original editorial had improperly described the map circulated by Palin’s PAC. All that would seem to have been a clear-cut admission of initial recklessness.

No dice. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said Palin’s lawyers failed to provide evidence for “actual malice,” then dismissed the complaint. And that was that.

Trump doesn’t seem to have anything as substantive as Palin’s complaint in his corner. Sure, CNN and others continually denied Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen — a claim that, we believe, becomes ever stronger with the passage of time and the revelations of bulk-mail ballot fraud, the Left’s takeover of the electoral administration process in key urban areas of swing states, and Big Tech’s collusion with the FBI to suppress the New York Post’s pre-election bombshell about the Biden Crime Family — but all that seems something short of intentional malice and reckless disregard for the truth.

Yes, CNN called Trump’s claim of a stolen election “The Big Lie” in a reference to Hitler, but he’s not the first Republican president to have been smeared as such. And unless there’s a smoking gun we’re not aware of — unless there’s some discovery of internal communications wherein CNN admits to knowing the truth while maliciously printing a falsehood — we think this will be a heavy lift for Trump.

We also think that Trump knows all this and that the real purpose of this lawsuit and its timing — just ahead of the midterms, right amid a wave of positive coverage for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s excellent handling of Hurricane Ian — is to make clear that he’s still in the fight, still the leader of the Republican Party, and still going toe to toe with the Fake News Media, which he’s correctly called “the enemy of the American people.”

Indeed, he said as much in his statement: “In the coming weeks and months we will also be filing lawsuits against a large number of other Fake News Media Companies for their lies, defamation, and wrongdoing, including as it pertains to ‘The Big Lie,’ that they used so often in reference to their disinformation attack on the Presidential Election of 2020.”

So other news organizations are also on notice, not just woebegone CNN. And if these shots across their bows by Trump ultimately amount to nothing more than a nuisance, we’d say it’s time and energy well spent — especially if it works these media “refs” to call things even a little more fairly going forward.

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