Washington: You can’t sue Donald Trump for tweeting that you’re a “real dummy!” and a “major loser” with “zero credibility” — or for saying you “begged” him for a job on his presidential campaign when you insist you didn’t.
That’s what a New York appeals court ruled in the case of a Republican political strategist who accused Trump of inciting a “virtual mob” against her after she questioned his fitness for office on television last year. The defamation suit by public-relations specialist Cheryl Jacobus was dismissed in January by New York state court Judge Barbara Jaffe.
“Just because speech may be offensive to someone doesn’t make it defamatory,” said Lawrence S. Rosen, an attorney for Trump. “The president is entitled to his opinion just like anyone else is.”
A five-judge appeals court panel in Manhattan on Tuesday upheld the lower-court ruling, finding that Trump’s statements about Jacobus were “too vague, subjective and lacking precise meaning” to be defamatory. A reasonable person would find them to be opinion and not fact, the court found.
Jay R. Butterman, an attorney for Jacobus, said he intends to ask the state’s highest court to hear the case.
“What this decision means is that the free speech is given only to those who have the power and authority to control the media,” Butterman said.
Trump is also fighting a suit by a former contestant on his “Apprentice” reality TV show who claims the president defamed her by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault. Trump’s lawyers have argued the US. Constitution bars him from facing state court suits while he’s in office and that his speech was protected under the First Amendment.
The case is Jacobus v. Trump, 153252/2016, New York Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).