Chaos reigns in the Trump household. Melania Trump has slapped Mail Media Inc – the company behind the Daily Mail Online website – with a big fat lawsuit. Last year, the website insinuated that Mrs Trump worked as a high-end escort in the 1990s in Slovenia. The First Lady is having none of it. She claims that the comments published by the Mail jepordised the opportunity for her businesses to profit from her new, elevated status.
While we must admire Melania for trying to protect (or indeed save) her reputation, her attempts to do so seem futile: in the post-truth era, we’ll believe what we want, regardless. All her lawsuits (and this is the second one) have done is alert the world to the claims she is trying so hard to suppress.
Favoured – and frightening – Hollywood attorney Charles Harder is representing the First Lady. When he originally filed the claim last October, Harder told the press: “The Daily Mail inflicted massive damages upon Mrs Trump’s reputation.” The case was thrown out of a Maryland Court, but was this week refiled with the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Harder is certain that “the end result will be they [Mail Media Inc] will be held accountable for all of the damages that they caused.”
Time will tell. Here’s how the lawsuit reads:
“The economic damage to the plaintiff’s brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online’s defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars… The plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.”
In case you’re wondering, the First Lady’s “product categories” would have included “apparel, accessories, shoes, jewellery, cosmetics, haircare, skincare and fragrance.” (Because we all want a scent that attracts a Donald?)
Sign up for the Week in Review Email
Every Sunday: Read the week’s most read articles, watch Iain Martin’s Authors in Conversation series, listen to The Reaction podcast & receive new offers and invites.
The cruellest corners of my heart can’t help but notice a streak of contradiction in Melania Trump building a brand on the foundations of her husband’s profile, and then choosing to object when the attention is unfavourable. It is also worth noting that no First Lady has ever attempted to monetise her (unelected and unofficial) position before.
But object she can, and object she will. Her attorney is a veritable piranha, described by New York Times as “go-to lawyer” for a “violation of a famous person’s rights” and by the Financial Times as “Hollywood’s favourite lawyer“. He boasts a superexclusive portfolio of celebrity clients to prove it. Last year he won celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan $140 million in an invasion of privacy lawsuit (a case involving a sex tape). More recently, he has been chosen to represent Johnny Depp’s former wife, actress Amber Heard, and the Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. It could get bloody.
And in the midst of all this is Melania, who may or may not have been a high-end escort in the 1990s. For now, she is a wife who has been propelled into a job that she didn’t sign up for – and clearly she feels that, if she has to do it (even if it’s from the convenience of her Manhattan penthouse rather than the White House), she might has well profit from it. This First Lady is under the microscope, victim to scrutiny at every turn. We’ll come to our own conclusions about Melania, regardless of the businesses, the lawsuits, and the truth.