Bar Association Stifled Report Calling Trump ‘Libel Bully’ Over Risk Of Lawsuit

AP

The American Bar Association stifled a report in which a committee of media lawyers concluded that Donald Trump is a “libel bully” out of fear of being sued by Trump, according to the New York Times.

The American Bar Association commissioned the report but then refused to publish it, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump,” the Times reported.

“Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary,” First Amendment lawyer Susan E. Seager wrote in the spiked report, which ultimately saw the light of day when it was published Friday on the website of the Media Law Resource Center.

James Dimos, deputy executive director of the ABA, objected to “inflammatory language” in the report, according to the Times.

“While we do not believe that such a lawsuit has merit, it is certainly reasonable to attempt to reduce such a likelihood by removing inflammatory language that is unnecessary to further the article’s thesis,” Dimos wrote in an internal email quoted in the report.

David J. Bodney, a former chair of the ABA’s media law committee, told the Times that he found it “more than a little ironic” that the association would stifle a report about Trump’s record of using litigation to silence his critics.

Charles D. Tobin, another former chairman, told the Times that the association’s actions were “colossally inappropriate.”

Dimos did not respond to the Times’ request for comment.

ABA spokeswoman Carol Stevens told the Times that the association had only asked for “minor edits” to the report, and denied that fear of litigation had been a factor.

In October, Trump claimed that his campaign was “preparing” a lawsuit against the Times over a May story on allegations by two women that Trump groped each of them in incidents decades apart.

In response to Trump’s threat, New York Times assistant general counsel David McCraw wrote that the Times would “welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

No lawsuit has yet materialized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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