Former President Donald Trump on Monday filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN, accusing the news network of using its “massive influence” to air falsehoods about him.
The lawsuit, which seeks $475 million in damages, made good on a pledge from Mr. Trump earlier this year to wage a legal battle against CNN and other unnamed news organizations over their rejection of his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
“Beyond simply highlighting any negative information about the Plaintiff and ignoring all positive information about him, CNN has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source — to defame the Plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically, culminating in CNN claiming credit for ‘[getting] Trump out’ in the 2020 presidential election,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Lindsey Halligan and James M. Trusty, said in the lawsuit that CNN engaged in a “campaign of dissuasion in the form of libel and slander” that increased in recent months “as CNN fears the Plaintiff will run for president in 2024.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement Monday night, Mr. Trump said he will be taking separate legal action against other unnamed media outlets “in the coming weeks and months” and added that he “may bring appropriate action” against the House Jan. 6 Committee.
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As a public figure, Mr. Trump will face a higher bar than the average private citizen to prove his case. He will be required to show that the network’s journalists acted with malice — rather than negligence — or with reckless disregard for the truth. The First Amendment also affords the free press greater protections against such allegations.
CNN recently settled a high-profile defamation case in 2020 over its coverage of Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann’s viral public encounter with a Native American activist. The settlement amount was undisclosed but he originally sought $275 million.
Mr. Trump’s lawsuit cited CNN‘s use of the phrase the “Big Lie” — a phrase its anchors and reporters routinely use to describe the claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. The lawsuit also name-checked several anchors, on-air personalities and pundits such as editor-at-large Chris Cillizza and hosts John King, Jake Tapper, Brianna Keilar and Don Lemon.
It said the use of the term “Big Lie” was used to associate Mr. Trump with Adolf Hitler. The lawsuit mentioned Adolf Hitler 53 times.
“One of the most pervasive associations between the Plaintiff and Hitler that CNN has employed is its use of the term the ‘Big Lie’ in relation to the Plaintiff’s stated concerns about the integrity of the election process for the 2020 presidential election,” the lawsuit stated.