A Maryland blogger sued by Melania Trump for defamation has asked a judge to dismiss the action, which he described as an attempt to curb his ability to speak out about the potential first lady.
Webster Tarpley of Gaithersburg, who operates tarpley.net, also asserted the lawsuit was brought in bad faith because it was filed after he had complied with a request from Melania Trump to retract an Aug. 2 post he’d written and to apologize for writing it.
Tarpley’s attorneys filed the motion to dismiss the suit last week, according to Montgomery County Circuit Court records. Trump’s attorneys have yet to respond in court, and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
On Aug. 2, Tarpley wrote that there were rumors that Trump had suffered a “breakdown” following accusations she’d plagiarized portions of her convention speech. Tarpley also wrote that Melania Trump was “reportedly obsessed by fear” over possible revelations that she allegedly once worked as a high-end escort, according to court records.
Another publication — the Daily Mail — also wrote about purported escort work. In a mid-August article, the British tabloid wrote about accounts that Trump worked as an escort at a gentleman’s club in Milan before moving to New York.
Attorneys for Melania Trump launched a strong counter attack, filing the lawsuit against Tarpley and the Daily Mail in Montgomery County. They had standing to bring the case in that venue because Tarpley lives there and the Daily Mail conducts business in Maryland, according to court records.
“These defendants made several statements about Mrs. Trump that are 100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and professional reputation. Defendants broadcast their lies to millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world — without any justification,” Trump’s attorneys said in a statement about the lawsuit.
The Daily Mail also published a retraction and apology for publishing the material. The Daily Mail has yet to file any documents in Montgomery County, court dockets show.
Tarpley’s request to dismiss the lawsuit was reported Tuesday by law.com. Through his attorneys, Tarpley said the actions by Melania Trump’s lawyers amounted to a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” often known as a “SLAPP suit.”
“The lawsuit has been brought in bad faith ... because it was filed after Mr. Tarpley immediately complied with Mrs. Trump’s request to retract the August 2, 2016, article and apologize,” wrote one of Tarpley’s attorneys, Danielle D. Giroux.
The motion by Tarpley also alleges that Trump’s lawyers failed to state a claim of defamation. Among those arguments: “The allegedly defamatory statements are neither actionable nor defamatory;” and “Mrs. Trump is a public figure and has not alleged facts sufficient to establish actual malice.”
Trump’s lawsuit asserts the damage she says was done to her:
“The injurious character of the defamatory statements in the Tarpley Blog Post is self-evident and therefore constitutes defamation per se,” they wrote. “Further, plaintiff is involved in many business ventures involving the licensing of her name and likeness, and relying upon her valuable reputation, and the defamatory publication foreseeably caused substantial damage to her business, career, reputation and her actual and prospective economic relationships. As a result of Tarpley’s conduct, plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.
“Tarpley’s conduct was despicable, abhorrent, intentional, malicious, and oppressive, and thus justifies an award of punitive damages.”
Tarpley and his attorney, Giroux, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.