UPDATED from 2:23 PM with Univision statement: He said last week that he would go after them in the courts and today the GOP Presidential candidate did just that. Donald Trump slammed Univision Tuesday with an over $500 million lawsuit over the Spanish-language network ending their plans on June 25 to show the July 12 Miss USA pageant. Univision said that the severing of ties was because of remarks Trump made in May about “rapists” immigrants flooding into America. Filed in NY Supreme Court, today’s breach of contract and defamation complaint from Trump and the Miss Universe Organization bluntly demands “an order awarding damages in favor of Mr. Trump for defamation against Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be in excess of $500 million, together with interest.” (read it here)
In response, Univision took a swing right back at the real estate billionaire’s lawsuit and previous remarks about immigrants. “We just reviewed Mr. Trump’s complaint for the first time, and it is both factually false and legally ridiculous,” said the network in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We will not only vigorously defend the case, but will continue to fight against Mr. Trump’s ongoing efforts to run away from the derogatory comments he made on June 16th about Mexican immigrants. Our decision to end our business relationship with Mr. Trump was influenced solely by our responsibility to speak up for the community we serve.”
Waving the First Amendment, Trump took this whole thing to a new level Tuesday by roping in fellow White House contender Hillary Clinton and her supporters as the real dark hand behind the cancellation of Miss USA. “While Univision has claimed in the media that its decision to cut ties with MUO came in response to certain comments by Mr. Trump during a June 16, 2015 campaign speech announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, the decision was, in reality, a thinly veiled attempt by Univision, a privately held company principally owned by longtime Clinton Foundation donor and current Hillary Clinton fundraiser, Haim Saban, to suppress Mr. Trump’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment as he begins to campaign for the nation’s presidency and, in recent weeks, has dramatically risen in the polls while expressing critical views of Mrs. Clinton,” says the complaint.
The naming names lawsuit also claims that Univision execs like Randy Falco were “engaging in behind the scenes lobbying of their former colleagues and, upon information and belief, colluded with executives at NBC to permanently sever its contractual and business relationship with Plaintiffs by, among other things, refusing to broadcast the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants in express violation of NBC’s contractual obligations.” NBC announced on Monday that it would be ending its relationship with the former Celebrity Apprentice host and won’t be showing the pageants this year. Trump has said he will take NBC to court too so this may just be the first of many legal actions coming. Of note is that Trump owes 49% of the Miss Universe Organization while NBC Pageants is his partner. NBC Pageants is not named as a defendant or plaintiff is today’s action – but that could change, sources tell me.
Laying out a bit of timeline, Tuesday’s dense complaint states that Univision tried to terminate the January 15, 2015 agreement to show the simulcast of the pageant with a $13.5 million license fee payout. The offer came from “a high ranking executive at Univision” last Thursday, before the network announced it was cutting ties with Trump.”Unfortunately, that amount pales in comparison to the total amount Univision will ultimately have to pay,” says Monday’s lawsuit, which alleges that Univision went public with its decision after their offer was rejected.
“Simply stated, there is nothing in the Agreement which gives Univision the right to terminate its relationship with MUO based on Mr. Trump’s comments,” claims the complaint, echoing remarks trump made soon after Univision pulled the Miss USA plug. “Even if there were, Univision would have been required to serve formal notice on MUO. Univision has failed to do so. Instead, Univision, in an obvious attempt to politicize the situation and suppress Mr. Trump’s right to free speech, including his views on both trade and illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border, has made a concerted effort, upon information and belief, in collusion with others, to wage war against Plaintiffs in the media.”
The jury seeking filing also names Univision’s President of Programming and Content Alberto Ciurana as a defendant. “In a move which can only be described as both tasteless and defamatory, on June 25, 2015, Mr. Ciurana, Univision’s President of Programing and Content, then posted a photo on his official Univision Instagram account comparing Mr. Trump to Dylann Roof, the 21 year old who was recently arrested in the murder of nine (9) African-Americans attending bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the worst hate crimes to ever take place on U.S. soil,” the complaint from attorney Jeffery Goldman of NYC from Belkin, Burden, Wenig & Goldman states. The posting by Ciurana has since been taken down but the legal missiles have just started here – and somebody’s leaving the courtroom eventually feeling fired.