After The New York Times published two women’s account of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president did what he always does when held to account for his actions and threatened to sue the paper.
Trump’s attorneys wrote to the Times demanding a retraction, stating that the paper’s article about the two women’s claims was “reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se.”
The Times wasted no time responding to Trump’s threats and delivered a short, brutal letter stating that there was in fact, no reputation to defame. CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted out a copy of the letter sent to Trump’s lawyer (transcript below – bold emphasis ours):
NYT responds to Trump re: cease and desist pic.twitter.com/3AozcWSIl6
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 13, 2016
Dear Mr. Kasowitz:
I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.
You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se”. You ask that we remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology. We decline to do so.
The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as “a piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.
But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump?s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.
David E. McCraw
If the Trump camp has any collective brain power left, they’ll do everything in their power to stay out of court. The last thing they want is for more evidence of Trump’s sexual misconduct being aired in public, particularly when women are already lining up to tell their stories.
Trump’s legal team no doubt understands this and probably made the threat just to be seen making it, but the severeness of the response negates any PR value it might have had. The New York Times basically just laughed at Donald Trump, knowing full well that there’s absolutely nothing — nothing — he can do about it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.