Donald Trump said Friday that if elected president he will change the nation’s libel laws in order to make it easier to sue news organizations.
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win… I’m going to 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,” Trump said during a rally in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” he said. “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
Those remarks immediately drew criticism from journalists, including The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, who wrote: “Trump takes attacks on media to new level — says as president he’ll try to gut the First Amendment.”
No federal libel law currently exists, because libel suits are handled in state courts.
Since 1964, when the Supreme Court ruled on “New York Times vs. Sullivan,” public individuals who wish to sue media companies for libel are required to prove that the news organization knowingly published false information with malicious intent.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2012 that he “abhors” the ruling, saying it gives news organizations the freedom to “libel public figures at will so long as somebody told you something.”
Trump, who frequently belittles the media as “dishonest scum,” has accused several news outlets and journalists of lying about him. He would likely have a long line of people to sue, from Fox News host Megyn Kelly to NBC’s Katy Tur to radio host Hugh Hewitt.
He has been particularly critical of the New York Times of late, given recent reporting they’ve done that has questioned the true extent of his wealth and the amount of influence he has in New York.
On Friday, Trump called the Times “a failing paper.”