Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday, once again took aim at the media, threatening to “open up libel laws” to make it easier to sue outlets like The New York Times and the Washington Post.
Trump made his comments after protesters interrupted his rally, and cameras panned toward the demonstrators.
Criticizing The New York Times for its coverage, Trump said, “We are going up libel laws, folks, and we are going to have people sue you like you have never been sued before.”
Trump also singled out the Washington Post, accusing Jeff Bezos of buying the paper “to help Amazon.”
There is no federal libel law, but a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions have generally defined the parameters of state statutes governing defamation and slander claims.
At the rally, Trump continued his attacks on Marco Rubio, at one point taking a water bottle and spilling it around the stage. He was mocking Rubio’s propensity for sweating.
Update: David Chavern, Newspaper Association of America President & CEO, issued a statement in which he said, “If Mr. Trump wants to try to bully news organizations into providing reporting that he likes, then he will have to do a whole lot better than making weak, misguided promises about changes to a law that aren’t needed in the first place.”
“The first thing to understand is that under the landmark Supreme Court case of New York Times vs. Sullivan, it was determined that news organizations could be found liable when they deliberately publish false information. The specific standard is ‘actual malice.’ So if Mr. Trump wants to address media organizations that ‘write purposely negative and horrible, false articles’ then the law is already established as to his rights to do that.
“But we all know that Mr. Trump isn’t interested in legalities in this case. He is clearly just trying to intimidate news organizations and bully them in providing more positive coverage of him and his candidacy for President. He should pick a different target. Newspapers have dealt with more intimidating figures than Mr. Trump.”