On Monday, First Lady Melania Trump filed a defamation action against London’s Daily Mail over a story that alleged that she once worked as an “elite escort” in the “sex business”. The story was later retracted and was little noticed until Charles Harder (of Hulk Hogan v Gawker fame) files this complaint less than a month after the inauguration.
The complaint ignores the danger of the Streisand effect, that being when a famous person brings a lawsuit seeking to keep something private or not discussed it inevitably increases the attention given to it exponentially. I think the Trump camp was fully aware of this risk, but instead had another purpose – to discipline the media. I fully suspect that the parties could have achieved a quiet settlement if that is what the parties desired.
As a candidate and President, Trump has been openly hostile to the media and campaigned that he would “open up the libel laws” if elected.
This lawsuit in reality is simply a fulfillment of a campaign promise and part of a larger effort by Trump to intimidate or, at least, discipline the media.
Harder and the Trump team, however, were tripped up by hubris. The complaint alleges that the allegations impacted “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.”
“Plaintiff had the the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.”
In other words, the First Lady is alleging that the allegations have harmed her ability to exploit her position as First Lady for commercial gain. Really? Was QVC going to find a new home on Pennsylvania Avenue?
This statement has shocked many and caused a political furor for the Trump administration – as it should since one must also wonder whether that is how the President and his children view the the Presidency given their refusal to disclose and separate their business operations.
In his inaugural address, President Trump pledged that
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.
Harder’s complaint, however, conveys a different message – it’s going to be all about the Benjamins.
The complaint is below.