President Trump’s reelection campaign has filed its third defamation lawsuit against a major media outlet in less than two weeks. The news organization named in the latest libel suit is CNN. As with the previous lawsuits that we have written about, the claims of defamation stem from statements contained in an opinion piece concerning alleged cooperation between Russia and Trump to assist the latter’s presidential bid.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta, accuses CNN of publishing a libelous opinion piece on its website CNN.com in June 2019 the topic of which was Russia’s efforts to influence the United States presidential election in 2016. The author of the piece at issue, entitled “Soliciting dirt on your opponents from a foreign government is a crime. Mueller should have charged Trump campaign officials with it,” is Larry Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission and an outspoken campaign finance advocate.
The opinion editorial, which at the time of writing is still available on CNN’s website, contains a disclaimer that Noble is a CNN contributor but the commentary is solely his own opinion, though it is unclear whether this disclaimer appeared at the time the piece was originally published. The article focuses first on the 2016 election and laying out a case for Noble’s belief that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not exonerate President Trump from claims of collusion with Russia in that election. The article then shifts focus to the upcoming election and speculates about what role if any Russia will play in influencing the election. According to the complaint, in discussing the upcoming presidential election, Noble falsely claimed that the President’s reelection campaign “assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”
A large portion of the complaint is dedicated to attempting to establish that CNN acted with actual malice in publishing Noble’s piece. The alleged evidence of this bias spans many pages and paragraphs in the complaint. According to the suit, there is “extensive evidence” that both CNN and Noble “are extremely biased against the Campaign.”
The complaint alleges that Noble “has a record of malice and bias against the President” and that CNN should have been on notice that Noble might defame the President because he “has written numerous articles accusing the President of criminal activity, and of campaign finance and ethics violations, and has lodged a complaint against a Super-PAC which supports the President.”
The complaint cites as evidence of CNN’s bias “undercover video footage taken by the Project Veritas news organization in which CNN staff members admit on camera that CNN’s coverage is extremely biased against the Campaign, the administration, and Republicans in general.” In this undercover video, a Media Coordinator at CNN allegedly “admits that CNN’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, has a personal vendetta against the President,” according to the complaint. The lawsuit also claims that a Supervising Producer at CNN admitted in the same undercover footage that “CNN’s coverage regarding Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 election was ‘mostly bullshit’ and that the President ‘is probably right to say…you are witch hunting me.’”
As further evidence of this bias, the complaint cites to “a recent, reliable survey” that allegedly concluded that “93% of all stories at www.CNN.com were aggressively negative about the current President, whereas the coverage of past Presidents was only around 50% negative.”
“CNN clearly had a malicious motive in publishing the Defamatory Article, and acted with reckless disregard for the truth,” the complaint concludes after reciting the alleged examples of bias. The suit claims “on information and belief” that CNN “was aware at the time of publication . . . that the Campaign had not decided to ‘leave the option on the table’ of seeking Russia’s help in the 2020 election.” Even if CNN was not aware of the alleged falsity of the article, the complaint contends, the media outlet should have known that the claims were false based on “[e]xtensive public information, known by and available to CNN.” “CNN knowingly disregarded all such information when it published the Defamatory Article,” the complaint alleges. As a result of the statements in the article, the President’s campaign claims that it “was damaged in an amount to be proven at trial, in the millions of dollars.” The complaint seeks an award of actual damages as well as punitive damages against CNN.
A copy of the complaint can be obtained here.
Whether you are being accused of harming someone’s reputation or you believe someone else has harmed your reputation by making defamatory statements, it is important to consult an experienced slander and libel law attorney. Our Chicago and DuPage County defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. You can view here a federal court decision where we prevailed in a libel per se claim asserting the innocent infringer defense. Here is an arbitration decision where we successfully defended our client by presenting evidence that our client’s numerous YouTube videos concerning a used car dealer were substantially true and constituted protected opinion under the First Amendment. We recently required a defendant who publicized an allegedly false lawsuit regarding our client to provide an apology and full retraction as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16 million suit for libel per se in federal district court.
Our Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village defamation attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area, including in Wilmette and Evanston, who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victims of cyber-smearing via false rating websites created by competitors to publish defamatory content. Beyond slander and libel law, our business, commercial, class-action, and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. We serve clients throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area. You can contact us online here or call us on our toll-free number at 833-306-4933 or locally at 630-333-0333.