Editorials

Trump’s libel law threat was just hot air

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally Friday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally Friday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said during his rally in Fort Worth last Friday that he intends to change libel laws to make it easier to “win lots of money.”

This was a political campaign rally, so suspension of reality is expected. Trump’s goal was to fire up potential voters — and if that required a lack of logic, so be it.

But in case anyone wonders how this translates to the real world, it doesn’t.

First, it doesn’t matter who is president, there is no federal libel law. Libel is a state issue.

Trump is probably complaining about a standard laid down in a 1964 Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan. Public figures like Trump who sue media companies must show that the news organization knowingly published false information with malicious intent.

But that would be no barrier in the situation Trump described: “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.”

He referred to The New York Times or The Washington Post writing “a hit piece,” adding that “we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”

One wonders why such suits have not been filed and won. Maybe this was all hot air.

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