A British tabloid has apologized to First Lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay almost $3 million in damages for publishing false allegations that she worked as an escort during her time as a professional model.
“We accept that these allegations about Mrs. Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologize to Mrs. Trump for any distress that our publication caused her,” the Daily Mail and Mail Online said in a statement released jointly by the publication and Trump’s lawyers.
Here’s the retraction and apology they published Wednesday online:
The Mail Online website and the Daily Mail newspaper published an article on 20th August 2016 about Melania Trump which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling. The article included statements that Mrs. Trump denied the allegations and Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modelling agency, also denied the allegations, and the article also stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations. The article also claimed that Mr and Mrs Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and “staged” their actual meeting as a “ruse.”
The Daily Mail has been sued – and lost – by celebrities before. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and musician Elton John won damages after filing lawsuits against the paper when they made false claims, CNN reports.
The First Lady filed a lawsuit against the Mail Online in September 2016, accusing it of making false and defamatory statements. The suit asked for at least $150 million in damages and was filed both in New York and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, winning a libel lawsuit against the media is extremely difficult. Because of First Amendment protections and they way they are interpreted by the courts, plaintiffs must not only prove that the published claims are false, but that they were published knowing they were false – meaning they have to prove actual malice. That rarely happens and is difficult to prove.
In Great Britain, there is no requirement to show malice, merely that the claims are false.
President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that he would like to see a change in the libel laws, purportedly eliminating the “malice” clause, making it easier to sue the press for damages.
He said he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”