Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Trump Vows 'Strong Look' at Libel Laws

Trump Vows 'Strong Look' at Libel Laws

"One of the things I'm going to do if I I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and disgusting and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money", said Trump at a February 2016 campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas. I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and awful and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money, ' Trump boasted.

President Trump on Wednesday said something that would have set off sirens if spoken by any other American leader.

At the beginning of a White House meeting with Cabinet members at which reporters were present, Trump said USA libel laws are "a sham and a disgrace". We're going to take a very, very strong look at that. "And I think what the American people want to see is fairness", said the U.S. president.

'If I become president - oh, do they have problems, ' he told 8,000 screaming fans.

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to a specific statement he believes to be false, but the White House has taken particular issue with author Michael Wolff's account of goings-on in Trump's administration on what it claims is a similar basis. "Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness". For a public official to win a libel suit, the plaintiff must not only show that the defendant published a false and defamatory statement but that the defendant did so maliciously. "I consider it work", Trump said. Nor did he identify what, exactly, the administration will be "taking a very very strong look at".

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It is unlikely that Congress would take up a move to change libel laws.

Trump's complaints about libel are not new; he has somewhat regularly called for tougher libel laws as he has smarted over news coverage, decried "fake" news and pointed out corrections from news outlets. "These are laws that originated hundreds of years ago in England".

In February 2016, Trump, who rose to political prominence on the back of a false claim about Barack Obama, first signaled his intention to make it easier to punish the press for making false claims. The Supreme Court established the actual malice criteria in 1964 with the landmark case.

In October, he blasted NBC News over a report that said he had sought to expand America's nuclear arsenal and later threatened to go after the network's broadcasting license, which does not exist.

For now, Roth said, Trump's threat to change libel laws is just "another silly declaration" from the White House.

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