Evan Osnos of the New Yorker faced the tortuous work of trying to divine what a Donald Trump White House would actually do. “President Trump’s First Term” considers the possibility that in his first days running the country, Trump could “renounce” the Paris agreement, revive an examination of the Keystone XL pipeline and take the initial steps toward a trade war with China.
Too late for inclusion in Osnos’s harrowing projection: a possible Trump defamation suit against the New York Times. In an interview Monday night with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, Trump was asked what would happen if Hillary Clinton sought to play the “women’s card.” Flashing his distinct inability to converse in a straight line, Trump answered like this: “Well, you know, the New York Times wrote a story about me and women. And it turned out that it was a false story. And honestly, we’re going to take that up with them a little bit later date. We’ll get rid of this first. We will go through this little process first which I think is going to end very successfully on November 8th,” said Trump. After riffing about his great prospects, he continued, “But the “New York Times” wrote a story about women. And the women called the office, she said, we never said that about Donald Trump. We really like him.”
Slow down to digest the implications here. Trump is expressing confidence that he’ll win the presidential election. In the same breath, he articulates what would appear to be one of his governing priorities — to “take up” a gripe with the New York Times, apparently over its May story by Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey with the headline “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.” Based on interviews and other sources of information, the reporters found that Trump had compiled a record of “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct.” After the story landed, one of its subjects appeared on “Fox & Friends” to denounce the reporting and claim to have been misquoted.
The investigation of Trump’s approach to women prompted the usual Trump backlash — tweets and TV appearances replete with media criticism. For example:
No wonder the @nytimes is failing—who can believe what they write after the false, malicious & libelous story they did on me.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2016
Trump Organization general counsel Michael Cohen told CNN, “They need to do a retraction and they need to actually be fair, because they’re destroying their paper.”
Such noise notwithstanding, the Trump people never directly requested a correction or a retraction from the New York Times itself, the newspaper confirmed at the time. Nor has the New York Times received any correction requests since that time, said a spokeswoman today. The story was solid.
So the plan, apparently, is to leave things in a holding pattern until Trump wins the presidency. Then go after the New York Times. USA Today reported that Trump and his companies had been involved in 3,500 legal actions over his career in business. Why change all that just because he embarks on a career in government?