Michael Cohen in New York City last month. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Media critic

They say that Michael Cohen, a personal attorney for President Trump, attended a really bad law school. He has provided contradictory statements about important things. He has threatened a reporter in a vile manner.

Yet the most compelling example yet of Cohen’s bad lawyerliness may stem from a piece on the satirical website the Onion. In 2013, the site published a story under the byline of “Donald Trump“: “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead In About 15 Or 20 Years.” Like most fare on the Onion, there’s not much point in reading beyond the headline, though here’s a taste: “And if my death in 15 or 20 years feels like it’s too far in the future to wash away your blues, you can take heart knowing that I’ll start to physically and mentally deteriorate well before then.”

Apparently Cohen, long known as Trump’s “fixer,” didn’t appreciate the humor. So he sent along this email to The Onion:

The intimidation didn’t land at the Onion, in part because it didn’t find the thing till recently. Not long after publishing the “Donald Trump” op-ed, the Onion “apparently received an email from Mr. Cohen. Unfortunately, this email must have been improperly sorted by one of the Malaysian children who work in our mailroom, and was only discovered crumpled up under a pile of journalism awards in a remote corner of our offices last week.”

Oblivion, as it turns out, is a appropriate way to handle such a worthless quasi-legal gripe. Our system, after all, affords strong protections for the expression of satire and parody. “Although they may be offensive and intentionally injurious, these statements contain constitutionally protected ideas and opinions, provided a reasonable reader would not mistake the statements as describing actual facts,” notes one description of this important element of First Amendment law.

Michael Cohen, quite clearly, is not “a reasonable reader.”