2:08pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Melania Trump Sues Over Daily Mail Story Suggesting She Was an Escort
Melania Trump, wife of the Republican nominee for U.S. president, filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against Mail Media, parent company of the U.K. publication The Daily Mail, as well as a blogger named Webster Griffin Tarpley.
In a complaint lodged in Maryland Circuit Court, Trump is taking issue with an Aug. 19 article titled, "Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won't go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump's Slovenian wife."
She is represented by Charles Harder, the same attorney who handled Hulk Hogan's privacy suit in a victory for the former professional wrestler that bankrupted Gawker Media with a $140 million verdict.
The story in The Daily Mail covered Trump's journey to New York in the mid-1990s and raised questions about her past based on "highly-charged, lesbian-themed, nude photographs," the exact timing of when she traveled to the U.S. on a visa, and her stint working for a modeling agency. The article relied on the work of a Slovenian journalist who had co-authored an unauthorized biography of Trump as well as a report early last month in a Slovenian magazine to make the claim that her modeling agency was run by a New York entrepreneur, who allegedly also operated an escort agency for wealthy clients.
The article stated, "What Melania's [composite card] looked like only the people involved know, but it is no coincidence she got a rich husband."
According to Trump's lawsuit, "The statements of fact in the Daily Mail Article are false. Plaintiff did legitimate and legal modeling work for legitimate business entities and did not work for any 'gentleman's club' or 'escort' agencies. Plaintiff was not a sex worker, escort or prostitute in any way, shape or form, nor did she ever have a composite or presentation card for the sex business. Plaintiff did not come to the United States until 1996. Thus, Plaintiff did not, and could not have participated in a photo shoot in the United States or met her current husband in the United States prior to that time."
The lawsuit follows legal threats sent out by Trump's lawyer to a number of publications including Politico.
Trump asserts that the The Daily Mail consciously doubted the truth of the claims in the article, but decided to publish it anyway, and that reporters there can't simply rely on "unsubstantiated" claims and "an unauthorized book written by malicious and bitter 'reporters' who have never met or spoken to Ms. Trump."
"The conduct of Daily Mail was despicable, abhorrent, intentional, malicious and oppressive, and thus justifies an award of punitive damages," states the complaint.
Besides defamation, Trump also is suing for tortious interference, contending that the published statements have gotten in the way of her "numerous" licensing and endorsement deals.
As for Tarpley, there's not much background on who this person is besides that he's an individual residing in Gaithersburg, Md., and runs a blog on his own website.
In early April, Tarpley is said to have published a post titled, "Where Is Melania Trump."
According to the complaint, the post talked about "rumors" that she was having an "apoplectic fit" after the "plagiarism incident" at the GOP convention. Tarpley's blog also mentioned she was "reportedly obsessed by fear of salacious revelations by wealthy clients from her time as a high-end escort."
Among the many other statements in the blog post, Tarpley also allegedly wrote, "It is speculated that Trump will attempt to hide Melania's breakdown and rejection of campaigning from the media and the public for as long as possible."
Tarpley is said to have removed the blog post on Aug. 22 and published an apology and retraction. Nevertheless, he's being sued in what could be a message to all others out there on the internet who might gossip about Donald Trump's wife.
Later on Thursday, the Daily Mail issued a retraction on their website, titled "Melania Trump: A retraction," which can be read below in full:
On August 20, 2016, an article was published in the Daily Mail newspaper titled 'Racy photos, and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump.'
The article discussed whether allegations being made about Melania Trump could negatively affect her husband Donald Trump's presidential bid. Among other things, the article noted that allegations have been made in a book available on Amazon about a modeling agency where Mrs. Trump worked in Milan being 'something like a gentleman's club,' and an article published by Suzy, a Slovenian magazine, alleged that Mrs. Trump's modeling agency in New York, run by Paolo Zampolli, 'operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients.'
The article, which was also published online by the Mailonline/DailyMail.com website under the headline 'Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won't go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump's Slovenian wife' did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true, nor did it intend to state or suggest that Mrs. Trump ever worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business.'
To the contrary, The Daily Mail newspaper article stated that there was no support for the allegations, and it provided adamant denials from Mrs. Trump's spokesperson and from Mr. Zampolli.
The point of the article was that these allegations could impact the U.S. presidential election even if they are untrue.
Mrs. Trump's counsel in the U.S. and the U.K., have stated unequivocally that the allegations about the modeling agencies are false.
To the extent that anything in the Daily Mail's article was interpreted as stating or suggesting that Mrs. Trump worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business,' that she had a 'composite or presentation card for the sex business,' or that either of the modeling agencies referenced in the article were engaged in these businesses, it is hereby retracted, and the Daily Mail newspaper regrets any such misinterpretation.
The Daily Mail newspaper and MailOnline/DailyMail.com have entirely separate editors and journalistic teams.
In so far as MailOnline/DailyMail.com published the same article it wholeheartedly also retracts the above and also regrets any such misinterpretation.
Sept. 1, 4:10 p.m. PT: Updated with Daily Mail retraction post.