The war against alleged “fake news” in the American mainstream media ramped up this week as U.S. president Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed a libel lawsuit against The Washington Post. The suit comes just days after it filed a similar suit against The New York Times.
According to the latest lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, the Post intentionally published “false statements” about Trump’s campaign. Specifically, Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis claimed the paper published “defamatory claims that the campaign ‘tried to conspire with’ a ‘sweeping and systematic’ attack by Russia against the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Ah yes … Russian meddling.
“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory,” Ellis said. “The complaint alleges The Post was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process. The campaign files suit to publicly establish the truth and seek appropriate legal remedies for the harm caused by false reporting.”
News of the lawsuit was first reported by Fox News.
The previous suit against the Times – which was filed in the New York state supreme court – was also related to the Russian meddling scandal. It accused the paper of “falsely reporting as fact a conspiracy with Russia.”
Specifically, it claimed the Times libeled Trump when it wrote of an “overarching deal” with the oligarchy of Russian president Vladimir Putin to hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton in exchange for “a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from … economic sanctions.”
Once again, Ellis claimed the Times knew these statements were false at the time they were published but printed them anyway with the “intentional purpose of hurting the campaign” and “misleading readers.”
Does Trump have a case against either outlet? Who knows …
But filing these lawsuits likely isn’t about winning judgements … it is about gaining political leverage.
Trump now has a high-profile forum he can use to directly refute one of the central liberal narratives against him … that his campaign colluded with Russian interests to steal the 2016 election. Instead of defending against this narrative, Trump is now aggressively attacking it.
Going on offense, in other words …
Also, while these lawsuits are unlikely to impact the coverage provided by either the Post or the Times, they could conceivably compel other outlets to govern their tone when it comes to reporting on the allegations of Russian meddling – potentially limiting the reach of the narrative.
Finally, lawsuits like these will serve to rally Trump’s base against two iconic mainstream media outlets … further branding them as purveyors of “fake news” obsessed with bringing down the current administration at any cost.
Even at the expense of the truth …
Bottom line? Nothing about these lawsuits hurts Trump. And while we make no judgment as to their merits from a legal perspective, from a political standpoint they are strokes of genius.
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