Trump Sues CNN for Defamation, Seeks $475 Million
Trump Sues CNN for Defamation, Seeks $475 Million

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN on Monday, alleging defamation and seeking $475 million in punitive damages. He is also seeking $75 million in compensatory damages.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, accuses CNN of having “sought to use its massive influence—purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source” to defame Trump “for the purpose of defeating him politically.”

The effort resulted in CNN claiming credit for “getting Trump out” in the 2020 presidential election, attorneys for Trump said in the complaint (pdf).

“CNN’s campaign of dissuasion in the form of libel and slander against the Plaintiff has only escalated in recent months as CNN fears the Plaintiff will run for president in 2024,” Trump’s lawyers added.

In the filing, the attorneys said that CNN “has tried to taint [Trump] with a series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler.’”

“CNN has been given the dreaded ‘Pants on Fire!’ designation by PolitiFact for its stories comparing Trump to Hitler. Still, it persists, requiring the time and expense of filing the instant lawsuit,” they wrote, later noting that CNN had “failed and refused to retract or correct the false and defamatory statements.”

Trump’s attorneys noted that there is “no statutory cap on punitive damages” because CNN allegedly had a “specific intent to harm” Trump, and its conduct allegedly did harm him. As such, Trump “may recover in excess of $2 million and in excess of four times his actual damages—the limits that Florida law otherwise would provide.”

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ‘Big Lie’

The attorneys said that “one of the most pervasive associations between Trump and Hitler that CNN has employed is its use of the term the ‘Big Lie’ in relation to the Plaintiff’s stated concerns about the integrity of the election process for the 2020 presidential election.”

“The ‘Big Lie’ is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf,” they wrote, adding, “The phrase is not taken lightly and is not bandied about blithely. CNN anchors and commentators understand this. They have not used it against other political leaders and previously criticized political analogies to Nazi Germany and to Hitler.”

“These defamatory statements, which associate Trump’s character with that of Hitler, are reasonably understood to be statements of fact as opposed to hyperbole or mere opinion regarding Trump and were reasonably understood by readers and viewers to be statements of fact and not hyperbole or mere opinion: readers and viewers understood that the Plaintiff would be Hitler-like in any future political role,” Trump’s lawyers said. “These statements are false and defamatory per se.”

They added that by publishing the allegedly defamatory statements, CNN “has incited readers and viewers to hate, contempt, distrust, ridicule, and even fear” Trump.

“When a public official, or political candidate, is likened to Hitler, it is defamation per se as the statement imputes a characteristic or condition incompatible with the proper exercise of that public office,” they said. “CNN published these defamatory statements with actual malice in that they knew the association of the Plaintiff’s character with that of Hitler was false, defamatory, and inflammatory or they published the statements with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity. CNN did so in order to propagate its political views.”

Trump’s attorneys noted in the filing that undercover footage captured of a CNN employee shows that the employee “admitted that CNN’s coverage and negative characterizations of Trump were intended to convince viewers to vote him out of political office.”

Trump had previously signaled in a statement from his Save America committee in late July that he would sue CNN for “their repeated defamatory statements” against him.

“I will also be commencing actions against other media outlets who have defamed me and defrauded the public regarding the overwhelming evidence of fraud throughout the 2020 Election,” Trump said at the time. “I will never stop fighting for the truth and for the future of our Country!”

In a statement late on Monday, Trump said that he was “proud to file today’s lawsuit in order to begin the process of standing up to Fake News and the Mainstream Media.”

He noted that he would also file lawsuits against other media outlets “in the coming weeks and months.” He did not name the specific other outlets but referred to them collectively as “Fake News Media Companies.” He said the legal actions are “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 Presidential Election of 2020.”

“‘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!” Trump said.

Possible Action Against Jan. 6 Committee

Trump separately noted that he “may bring appropriate action” against the Jan. 6 Committee, which came about after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) initiated a resolution in mid-2021 to create a committee to probe the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The nine-member committee has been criticized for its apparent partisanship, in part because the only two Republicans on the panel—Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)—are both known for their strong opposition to Trump.

Republican leaders denounced the formation of the Jan. 6 Committee, saying it wasn’t formed according to House rules, because Pelosi had selected Kinzinger and Cheney after having refused to seat Reps Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who were selected to be on the panel by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

In his statement on Monday, Trump said of the Jan. 6 Committee: “notwithstanding overwhelming evidence, they REFUSED to investigate the massive Presidential Election Fraud which took place, but only investigate and harass the people and Patriots who complained and asked questions about it. The rigging and stealing of our Presidential Election was perhaps The Crime Of The Century, and look at what is happening to our Country now!”

“The Unselect Committee has refused to acknowledge, as was done by the Biden Inspector General at the Department of Defense, and others, that days ahead of January 6th, I recommended and authorized thousands of troops to be deployed to ensure that that there was peace, safety, and security at the Capitol and throughout the Country,” the former president said.

“That offer of National Guard was rejected by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Mayor Bowser of Washington, D.C.-the law requires their request, they failed to make one, and in turn failed the Country.”

A spokesperson for the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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