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Trump Sued a Contestant for Alleging His Pageants Were Rigged

  • Donald Trump settled a defamation lawsuit he brought against a former Miss Philadelphia who had publicly alleged that the Miss USA contest was rigged. “Even so, some of those who have sued Trump, or been sued by him, say they still may vote for him in November. Philip Monnin represented his daughter, Miss Pennsylvania contestant Sheena Monnin, in a defamation suit Trump filed after she posted on Facebook that she thought the 2012 Miss USA Pageant was ‘rigged.” An arbitration ruling upheld by a federal judge ordered her to pay $5 million in damages, although she and Trump eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed lesser amount. Monnin, who lives in Michigan, said the suit demonstrated Trump's bullying tactics. But he doesn't rule out voting for Trump. "Both sides have failed to bring satisfactory candidates," he said in an interview. ‘I don't think any of us in the family has decided what to do.’” (USA Today, June 2, 2016)

2016: Melania Trump Sued a Blogger for Defamation Over Allegations She Used to Work as a Prostitute

  • 2016: A 70-year-old blogger from Maryland and London's Daily Mail published allegations that Melania Trump had worked as a professional high-end escort during the time she was allegedly working as a model. “Three months ago, a 70-year-old political blogger operating from his Maryland townhouse let it rip. ‘Where is Melania Trump?’ he asked, going on to offer an answer: The potential first lady was reportedly having a nervous breakdown after her controversial GOP convention speech and her fears that a secret past would be revealed. ‘It is also widely known that Melania was not a working model but rather a high end escort,’ wrote Webster Tarpley in a blog post that would come to be quoted in court filings. Tarpley, a Princeton University graduate, has also asserted that President Obama is a puppet of Wall Street and that the 9/11 attacks were a ‘false-flag’ operation. Tarpley's claims about Melania Trump, posted in the heat of the campaign, were followed by similar allegations published in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid. Both pieces attracted the attention of Melania Trump and her attorneys, and both publications posted retractions.” (Washington Post, November 13, 2016)
  • September 1, 2016: Melania Trump filed a defamation lawsuit against the blogger and the Daily Mail. “On Sept. 1, in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Melania Trump sued Tarpley and the Daily Mail for defamation. Her attorneys cited a series of published allegations, including those made in Tarpley's blog post, according to court records. Now, as Melania Trump readies to become first lady, the lawsuit shows no signs of slowing down. ‘These are some of the most inflammatory allegations possible,’ her attorneys wrote in their most recent filing. ‘Tarpley acted with reckless disregard for the truth.’” (Washington Post, November 13, 2016)
  • Melania's attorneys pressed defamation charges against the blogger despite the fact that he had subsequently published a retraction and apology over his allegation that she had once been a prostitute. “According to documents filed so far, the case could turn on the question of how far a publication can advance claims that it does not know to be true. Tarpley has addressed the matter on his blog, saying he did not defame Melania Trump and he had simply passed on rumors and innuendo of others in his Aug. 2 ‘Morning Briefing’ post. ‘While the editors, writers and contributors did not generate said rumors, the briefing in question was not diligent in fact-checking or maintaining a healthy distance between innuendo and fact,’ Tarpley wrote in his retraction and apology. But on that stance, Melania Trump, through her attorneys, said that when read as a whole, Tarpley's Aug. 2 posting asserted a series of bogus claims as fact.” (Washington Post, November 13, 2016)
  • February, 2017: The blogger sued by Melania for defamation reached a settlement in the lawsuit without establishing the truth or falsity of the underlying allegations in court. "A Maryland blogger has settled a defamation lawsuit filed by first lady Melania Trump. Webster Griffin Tarpley, who runs the blog, has agreed to pay a 'substantial sum' and issued a statement apologizing to the first lady and her family, according to a statement from Trump's attorneys. [...] In September, Trump filed a libel suit for $150 million against both Tarpley and the U.K.-based Mail Media, the parent company of the Daily Mail, after putting several websites on notice for publishing the allegations. In late January, a Maryland judge dismissed the suit against the Daily Mail, saying the site should not be sued in Maryland, but ruled that the case against Tarpley could go forward. [...] A trial had been scheduled for November." (Politico, February 7, 2017)
  • Melania Trump filed a second defamation lawsuit against London's Daily Mail after a Maryland court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the British tabloid. "Trump is still fighting the Mail, which published similar rumors and has since retracted them. On Monday, Trump refiled the libel lawsuit against Mail Media in New York state Supreme Court, arguing that the Mail’s publication of the rumors damaged her ability to make 'multimillion dollar business relationships' and other 'major business opportunities' during her time as first lady. Trump is being represented by lawyer Charles Harder, who represented professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in the widely publicized invasion-of-privacy suit against Gawker Media that led to the company’s bankruptcy and the shutdown of" (Politico, February 7, 2017)
  • April, 2017: The Daily Mail reached a settlement with Melania Trump that was significantly smaller than the $150 million in damages sought by Melania and again avoided a judicial determination of the truth or falsity of the allegedly defamatory claims. "The Daily Mail has agreed to pay damages and issue an apology to first lady Melania Trump to settle defamation claims over the British tabloid's insinuations that she 'provided services beyond simply modelling.' [...] The terms of the settlement were not released in court. The Associated Press reports that the total for the U.S. and U.K. lawsuits is $2.9 million. That's far less than the $150 million in damages that she sought. In a lawsuit filed in February, her lawyers argued that the unfounded allegations the Mail published had hurt the prospects of the Melania Trump brand significantly, and at a crucial time." (NPR, April 12, 2017)