First lady Melania Trump settled her defamation lawsuit against a Maryland blogger, who agreed to apologize to the Trump family and pay her a “substantial sum,” her attorneys said Tuesday.
“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her,” the blogger, Webster Tarpley, said in the statement provided by Trump’s attorneys.
Tarpley, 71, could not be reached for comment by phone or email. His attorneys, Danielle Giroux and John Owen, confirmed that a settlement had been reached.
The blogger’s article in August reported about unfounded rumors that Melania Trump once worked as a high-end escort and stated that Trump may have suffered a nervous breakdown after her speech at the Republican National Convention.
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“I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them,” Tarpley said in the statement. “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.”
Neither Trump’s attorneys at Harder, Mirell & Abrams based in Beverly Hills, nor Tarpley’s attorneys at Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman would provide the settlement amount.
No one answered the front door of Tarpley’s Gaithersburg townhouse, where he operates the blog tarpley.net.
As a blogger and author, Tarpley for years has advanced often unorthodox views. The Princeton University graduate has called former president Barack Obama a puppet of Wall Street and labeled the 9/11 attacks a “false-flag” operation.
On his blog Tuesday, he didn’t write about the settlement. Instead, over recent days he has covered developments in the Trump administration and linked to a podcast titled: “The Present as History: Comparing the Current Wave of Self-Destructive Anti-Establishment Politics with the Crisis of the Florentine Renaissance Under Savonarola at the End of the 1400s; Will American Civilization End Up on the Bonfire of the Vanities?”
Trump’s attorneys sued Tarpley on Sept. 1 in the jurisdiction where he lives, Montgomery County, Md. The attorneys also named as defendants the online Daily Mail, which published a similar article in August.
Trump had signaled that the lawsuit was important to her.
Between the election and inauguration, she came to a scheduling conference Dec. 12, the kind of routine court matter that often is attended only by attorneys.
At the time, Charles Harder, her attorney, said, Trump “was not required to attend the court conference, but chose to do so to meet the judge, meet opposing counsel and show her commitment to the case.”
In recent weeks, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell issued two key rulings in the litigation.
One related to claims against the online Daily Mail.
Trump’s attorneys had argued that although the publication was based in New York, it did business in Maryland by virtue of its readers in the state. (The publication is also related to the British Daily Mail print tabloid, which published the same story as the online Daily Mail.) But Burrell ruled Maryland was not the correct venue and tossed out the online Daily Mail portion of the lawsuit.
Trump’s attorneys have since refiled their online Daily Mail claims in New York.
A second key ruling by Burrell denied efforts by Tarpley’s attorneys to dismiss all claims against him. His attorneys had argued Tarpley had not defamed Trump because he was merely passing on unsubstantiated rumors and opinions, and that Trump’s claims against him were filed to try to curb his efforts to write about her.
Burrell said it was premature to dismiss the lawsuit on those claims.
“At this stage of the litigation,” she said from the bench on Jan. 27, “there is nothing to support Mr. Tarpley’s belief that the lawsuit was brought in bad faith or that the lawsuit was intended to inhibit Mr. Tarpley’s exercise of his rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.