The psychotic world of Donald Trump just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. The evidence of his rapidly accelerating descent into a paranoid dystopia increases with each new day. Already this week Trump has seen his Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admit that he engaged in a quid pro quo deal to extort the Ukrainian president; selected his own Miami Doral golf resort to host the 2020 G7 summit; advanced a bizarre conspiracy theory about the 2016 election; and brokered a total surrender by our allies the Kurds to the murderous Erdogan regime of Turkey.
Topping off this week from hell, one of Trump’s lawyers, Charles Harder, has just announced that Trump intends to sue CNN for what he calls “a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks” – otherwise known as accurate journalism. Harder sent a letter advising of that intention to Jeff Zucker, the CEO of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia (posted below). The threatened lawsuit alleges that the network is in violation of the Lanham Act “by constituting misrepresentations to the public, to your advertisers, and others.” The Lanham Act is a federal statute that, among other things, prohibits trademark infringement and false advertising. It’s safe to say that Trump isn’t accusing CNN of trademark infringement.
The letter warns that the suit will seek “a substantial payment of damages.” But what Harder says is false advertising are merely CNN’s comments as to their reliability as a news source. For instance, they say that they “stand for excellence in journalism,” and that they are “truly fair and balanced.” These, of course, are subjective observations that are neither advertising, nor actionable in litigation. If it were possible to sue for not being “fair and balanced,” Fox News would have been bankrupted long ago by legal judgements against them.
The most preposterous part of this lawsuit is that it relies almost entirely on examples of bias taken from a hysterically bogus set of videos by professional right-wing propagandist, liar, pervert, and ex-con, James O’Keefe, and his deceptively named Project Veritas. His latest smear campaign was cited extensively in Harder’s letter. But it was just another flaming dud that proved nothing but how awful he is at his loathsome job. Harder’s letter included this reference to the O’Keefe scam:
“Recently released video footage of individuals alleged to be your employees indicates that your reporting relating to President Trump is contrary to your own mission and the aforementioned Code of Ethics. Your own employees appear to state that CNN is focused on trying to ‘takedown President Trump,’ driven by a ‘personal vendetta’ that Mr. Zucker purportedly has against him, rather than reporting the news in an objective manner.”
Note that Harder even refers to “individuals alleged to be your employees,” because he doesn’t know whether or not the people appearing in the video are actually who O’Keefe says they are. And he’s proposing to sue on that foundation of mush. Even if they are CNN employees, they are all low-level support staff with no editorial responsibilities or newsroom authority. So they don’t speak for CNN. And every comment attributed to Zucker actually affirmed his integrity as a news executive.
Should Trump go ahead with this lawsuit he will will surely be laughed out of court. But there is little reason to believe that this will go past this embarrassingly dumb letter. Trump often threatens to sue people as a bullying tactic, but rarely has the guts to follow through. He recently threatened to sue House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff. And we’re still holding our breath for that one.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.