Donald Trump threatened the New York Times with a lawsuit Wednesday night after the Times published an article in which two women accused the presidential candidate of forcibly groping and kissing them years ago.
As the Times reports, the lawsuit threat comes in the middle of an eventful week for the Trump campaign. On Friday a videotape from 2005 was released that showed Trump bragging about being able to do whatever he wants to women because he’s famous. On the tape, Trump has a lewd and misogynistic conversation about women with Billy Bush, the then-host of Access Hollywood. During Sunday’s presidential debate, Trump was asked if he had ever engaged in the type of behavior he described in the videotape; Trump denied ever having done so and called it “locker-room talk.“
Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks beg to differ, and both recounted stories to the Times about Trump inappropriately, aggressively touching them. According to the Times, Trump said that the allegations from the two women were false, and his lawyer sent a letter to the Times (pdf) demanding that the newspaper retract the story and issue an apology.
“Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se,” Trump attorney Mark 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 letter goes on to accuse the Times of being willing to give a platform to anyone who wants to smear Trump’s name and reputation prior to the election.
Kasowitz ends his letter with, “We hereby demand that you immediately cease any further publication of this article, remove it from your website and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology. Failure to do so will leave my client with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies.”
New York Times Vice President and Assistant General Counsel David McCraw, who said that the article would not be retracted, came with the real clapback for Trump and his attorneys.
In a letter addressed to Kasowitz, McCraw gives Trump and his counsel a legal lesson by explaining that the essence of a libel claim is protection of one’s reputation. He points out that Trump created this reputation for himself through his own words and actions. He runs down several examples of the times that Trump has made himself look like a misogynistic boor, including the time Trump referred to his own daughter as a “piece of ass.”
In response to the threat of a lawsuit, McCraw tells Trump to bring it on. As the Times so eloquently points out, Trump would put himself into an even more precarious position because he is a public figure running for office, and he would be forced to reveal details about his own sexual behavior.
McCraw reminds Trump and his lawyers that the Times article was in the public interest.
“We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” McCraw wrote. “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that the 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.”
Read more at the New York Times.