Melania Trump won the first round of a libel suit she filed against a 70-year-old Maryland blogger over a report he published last summer about claims that Trump worked as a “high-end escort.”
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell rejected arguments from lawyers for blogger Webster Tarpley to dismiss Trump’s suit for failing to meet the “actual malice” standard for public figures. The judge also turned down Tarpley’s effort to dismiss the suit under a Maryland law aimed at quickly shutting down bad-faith lawsuits intended to intimidate people speaking out on issues of public concern.
“The court finds the plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation. The court believes most people, when they hear the words ‘high-end escort’ that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute.”
The judge also accused Tarpley’s lawyers of playing “word games” by arguing that his claims that Melania Trump suffered a mental breakdown were not libelous.
Burrell said there was no indication the suit was brought in bad faith. The judge also seemed skeptical that such salacious claims were deserving of the highest level of legal protection given that Melania Trump was the wife of a candidate and not a candidate herself.
“The interests affected are arguably not that important because the plaintiff wasn’t the one running for office,” Burrell said.
The suit also claims libel in a re-publication of Tarpley’s report in online editions of the Daily Mail newspaper. A company said to be affiliated with the Daily Mail was named as a defendant in the case. The judge was also hearing arguments to dismiss that portion of the suit Friday morning.
Melania Trump showed up for an initial hearing in the case last month, but was not present in the courtroom Friday.