Wednesday evening, after the New York Times published allegations from two women who say they were sexually assaulted by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, Trump’s lawyers responded with a threat to sue the Times for libel.
On Thursday, the Times’ lawyers responded with a letter that curtly demolishes Trump’s suggestion that he has a viable legal claim. Much of the letter tracks the constitutional standard governing libel claims. The women in the letter spoke on “a subject of deep public concern.” The Times’ reporters “diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts.” The law is on the paper’s side.
The Times’ letter, however, also makes another claim — Trump has no reputation to protect with a defamation suit:
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.
Congratulations, Mr. Trump. In threatening litigation, you have now given all the stories mentioned in the Times’ letter new legs.