First lady Melania Trump has filed a new $150 million libel suit against Mail Media, a legal move the Washington Post argues is "is based on an untruth."
The Slovenia native settled one defamation lawsuit on Tuesday -- which she had originally filed against both the Daily Mail and a Maryland blogger who wrote about unsubstantiated rumors she had worked as an escort and falsely said she suffered a breakdown. Trump settled with the blogger, and refiled the suit against Daily Mail owner Mail Media in New York state court on Monday.
Trump's court-submitted complaint with a August 2016 Daily Mail article -- a piece she says cost her millions of dollars in potential business -- is described, saying, "Mail online stated in the defamatory article at issue that plaintiff's well-publicized professional modeling career in the 1990s was a ruse and that she instead worked as an elite escort' in the 'sex business.'"
Writing for Washington Post's "The Fix," Callum Borchers says this is a "gross mischaracterization" of the story.
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The article in question, authored by Natalie Clarke, calls into question rumors and claims about Melania Trump's history in the context of how it could affect her husband -- then presidential candidate Donald Trump. The main focus of the article was a series of claims published in Slovenia's Suzy magazine that Melania Trump's former modeling agency in New York also operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients.
"On the one hand they [the girls] pretended to be models, but they principally earned money as elite escorts," the Suzy magazine article claimed. "They even had two composite cards (presentation cards held by each model) — with two photos and basic information such as measurements, eye and hair colour, and agency details."
In the end, though, the Daily Mail writer concedes little proof of these noted allegations, saying, "There is no evidence to back up these startling claims made in Suzy magazine."
And this is where Borchers gets the meat of his argument that Melania Trump's libel suit is based on falsehood. Even after the Daily Mail retracted the article on Sept. 1, Borchers says "The Daily Mail's report arguably did more to repair Trump's reputation than to damage it."
First, he argues the Daily Mail never accused Melania Trump of working in the "sex business," as her lawsuit states.
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"The Daily Mail might have made the wrong journalistic call," Borchers writes, "but it is objectively untrue to say — as the first lady's legal team does in the lawsuit — that the newspaper accused her of being a sex worker."
Borchers also points out that the escort claims were one detail within a 2,400 word expose centered on the "valid" question of how -- if at all -- Melania Trump's rumored past would affect Trump's presidential bid.
Whether Melania Trump finds fortune in her libel suit, a case particularly difficult to prove in the United States, remains to be seen. Regardless of how, Trump has already made history as the first president's wife to file a lawsuit while owning the title of first lady.