Election 2020

Trump Wants to 'Open Up' Libel Laws to Easily Sue Media

A freshman senator whose endorsements included Sarah Palin is going after Donald Trump for talking about changing libel laws so he can more easily sue news organizations.

At a rally today in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump railed against major newspapers and said if he wins the presidency he’ll “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.”

“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,” Trump said.

The WaPo’s editorial board has published editorials on the opinion page advocating that Trump be stopped, including one this week criticizing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “If Mr. Trump is to be stopped, now is the time for leaders of conscience to say they will not and cannot support him and to do what they can to stop him,” the editorial board wrote.

“You see, with me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money,” Trump 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.”

Media laws are often at the state level — for example, 49 states have shield laws that, to varying degrees, protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources, yet there is no federal shield law despite efforts in Congress. States also have laws regarding media access and recording interviews. Per the Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), public figures such as politicians have to prove malice to be able to claim damages in the publishing of untrue statements.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who was elected to Congress with the help of conservatives such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and talk show host Mark Levin, ripped Trump on Twitter for attacking press freedom. Sasse has not endorsed any candidate, but campaigned against Trump with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Iowa.