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On Friday, Donald Trump amended his $500 million lawsuit against Univision over the Spanish broadcaster’s decision to back away from a five-year, $13.5 million deal to broadcast the Miss USA pageant.
Trump’s new court filing, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, reveals that when he sold the Miss Universe Organization to WME/IMG, he retained rights to assert claims and seek damages against Univision.
The presidential candidate still claims that Univision had no right to terminate a deal for Miss USA in the wake of his June 16 speech, during which he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” He’s also still pursuing a claim for defamation based upon an Instagram post by Univision Networks president of programming and content Alberto Ciurana that compared Trump to Charleston, South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof.
Perhaps the biggest is language directed at Univision’s alleged attempt to “coerce, collude and/or conspire with NBC executives,” which, given Trump’s coming appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, is a tad ironic.
Trump was previously a joint partner with NBCUniversal in the Miss Universe Organization. NBC was also set to broadcast the pageant during primetime hours. But on June 29, following Univision’s own decision to abandon an airing of Miss USA, NBC did the same, citing “recent derogatory statements” from Trump.
The close timing of both announcements smacks Trump’s camp as fishy, not to mention that Univision CEO Randy Falco formerly worked at NBC for more than 30 years.
The new amended complaint (read here) adds a theory about why Univision would care about what NBC did. According to Trump, Univision intentionally and purposefully caused NBC to breach its Miss Universe contract “all in an effort to prevent MUO from being able to honor a ‘condition precedent’ in the Agreement,” that being an obligation that the pageant maintain an English-language broadcaster.
At a hearing earlier this month, Univision’s attorney pointed out that there were other companies including Macy’s, ESPN and Nascar that were disassociating themselves from Trump in late June. The relationship between Univision and NBC got quite a bit of attention at a conference before the judge, which is likely the reason why Trump’s lawyers decided to add more to its pleading. If the case goes further, Trump will surely seek discovery on communications between the two media companies.
Univision has already indicated the basis for a coming motion to dismiss.The broadcaster intends to assert a “frustration of purpose” defense, arguing that Trump’s “rapists” remark “ruined the value of the contract” by pretty much ensuring that Spanish-language viewers wouldn’t want to watch a program associated with him. (Some recent efforts by Latino activists upset by Trump’s SNL appearance would seem to bolster the theory.)
Trump’s lawyer is already arguing, though, that such a defense will fail because Univision was hardly caught off guard, knowing Trump’s penchant for colorful comments, yet having no morals clause for him.
At very least, Univision won’t have to argue that a claim for a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is duplicative of the straight contract breach claim. Trump’s amended complaint removes this as a cause of action. He still demands more than $500 million in damages, however.
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