The New York Times has told Donald Trump’s legal team not to hold its breath on their demand the newspaper retract a report featuring two women who claim they were touched inappropriately by the real estate developer years ago before he became a the GOP presidential candidate.
Trump last night threatened to sue the newspaper for libel the article. In a letter from his lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, addressed to NYT executive editor Dean Baquet, Trump demanded a retraction as well as an apology.
“Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se,” Kasowitz wrote. “It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy.” The article was the product of an “entirely inadequate investigation” and includes false, malicious allegations, and failure to retract leaves the presidential candidate “with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies,” Kasowitz wrote.
Responded the New York Times VP and assistant general counsel David McCraw today:
“The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate,” McCraw wrote. “It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices.”
The crux of a libel claim is that a person’s reputation has been damaged, McCraw explained. Trump, however, has repeatedly boasted in public about his “non-consensual sexual touching of women,” McCraw wrote.
Less than a week earlier, the Washington Post made public a 2005 Access Hollywood audio-and-video tape, in which then The Apprentice star Trump boasted to then Access Hollywood star Billy Bush, that he was so famous he could kiss and grope women with impunity.
Here is the full text of NYT‘s letter of response, as provided by the publication:
Marc E. Kasowitz, Esq.
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres Friedman LLP
New York, NY 10019-6799
Re: Demand for Retraction
Dear Mr. Kasowitz:
I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.
You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from (our) website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.
The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.
But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.
David E. McCraw