- Associated Press - Friday, January 27, 2017

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) - First lady Melania Trump can move ahead with a libel lawsuit she filed against a blogger who reported rumors that she worked as a high-end escort, a judge ruled Friday.

The blogger, Webster Tarpley of Gaithersburg, sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. His lawyer argued Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court that Tarpley accurately reported in an August blog post the fact that there were rumors about whether Trump’s modeling career included work as an escort.

“There is no dispute that there were, in fact, rumors,” said his lawyer, Danielle Giroux. “He did not say that Melania Trump was a high-class escort. What he said was there are rumors about that.”

Trump’s lawyer said the rumor is false and that reporters can’t make defamatory statements under the guise of reporting rumors.

“The job of a reporter is to vet it before you publish it,” the lawyer, Charles Harder said.

He also disputed the notion that Tarpley’s article merely reported the fact that rumors were out there. He cited a passage in the article stating, “It is also widely known that Melania was not a working model but rather a high end escort.”

Judge Sharon Burrell agreed with Harder: “There can be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute,” she said in denying the motion to dismiss.

Burrell deferred ruling on a separate motion to dismiss filed by Mail Media Inc., which is described in the lawsuit as the corporation that publishes the Daily Mail’s website. The argument over the Daily Mail’s motion centered on whether the lawsuit against them should have been filed in Maryland, and whether Trump is suing the correct corporate entity associated with the Daily Mail.

Trump also has filed a lawsuit against the paper in London.

She filed the lawsuit in Rockville in September, after both Tarpley and the Daily Mail issued retractions. She did not attend Friday’s hearing, though she did show up for an earlier pretrial hearing.

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