First lady Melania Trump said in a lawsuit Monday that her lucrative personal brand was damaged by an online article that alleged she worked as an escort in the 1990s.
The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court, said the Mail Online, in its August article hit just as Trump was about to enter the White House and embark on a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person.”
More explicitly, the suit claims the article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
It references several pending “multi-million dollar business relationships” for clothing, shoes, jewelry cosmetics and perfume.
Indeed, records show the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a trademark to “MELANIA” in 2013 for cosmetics.
On Jan. 17, just days before the inauguration, the office signed off on protecting “MELANIA” for a line of jewelry. Both are held by solely by Melania Trump and registered to her address in Trump Tower.
Photos: Melania Trump on inauguration morning
Trademarks protect words, names and symbols for goods and services that are tied to the source of those goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.
The Mail Online retracted its article and faced another defamation suit from Trump, which was dismissed in Maryland last week.
However, the article’s author, Webster Tarpley agreed to apologize and provide a “substantial sum” in a settlement reached Tuesday, said Donna McBride, Trump’s Maryland-based attorney.
Beverly Hills attorney Charles Harder issued a statement on behalf of Trump, along with the retraction from Tarpley on Tuesday: “I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her. I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”
In a bid to dismiss the case, attorneys for Tarpley mounted a SLAPP defense — arguing it was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation since it inhibited Tarpley’s First Amendment rights to free speech. Maryland, like many other states, has an anti-SLAPP law to prevent those suits.
That law became an issue for Donald Trump in his threats against outspoken critics before and during the campaign.
Tarpley’s attorney’s argued since Melanie Trump is a public figure, the bar for defamation is much higher and requires “actual malice.”