Donald Trump’s media company which owns his Twitter-like platform, Truth Social, sued The Washington Post May 20 for $3.78 billion in damages, claiming a recently published article on the media company’s finances is defamatory.
Trump Media & Technology Group, (TMTG), filed the complaint in Florida’s Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Sarasota, and alleged that the Post’s May 13 article: “Trust linked to porn-friendly bank could gain a stake in Trump’s Truth Social,” contains false statements about TMTG and posed an “existential threat” to the company.
The lawsuit claims that the Post’s article was done “in concert” with a TMTG employee who was terminated, and described the article as “an egregious hit piece that falsely accused TMTG of securities fraud and other wrongdoing.” It also states that the article “exposed” the company to “public ridicule, contempt and distrust, and injured TMTG’s business and reputation.”
The Post article states that ES Family Trust — an “obscure financial entity with connections to a Caribbean-island bank that bills itself as a top payment service for adult entertainment sites” — would “gain a sizeable stake” in TMTG if the two were to merge. This merger, however, was never disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission or shareholders, the Post reported. The information in the article was attributed to internal documents a former TMTG employee shared with the Post and federal investigators, who was identified in the lawsuit as Will Wilkerson.
“WaPo has been on a years-long crusade against TMTG characterized by the concealment of relevant information in its possession—a bitterly ironic truth for a publication whose motto is ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’” the complaint states.
The lawsuit alleges that the Post acted with actual malice, a standard established by the 1964 Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the court held that public officials and public figures can’t prevail in a defamation suit without proving that a statement was false and that, in addition, it was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
The courts have defined reckless disregard as proof that the defendant entertained serious doubts as to the truth or had a high degree of awareness of probable falsehood, and published anyway.
The lawsuit claims the Post acted with actual malice because it published “fabricated facts about securities fraud, and published and republished Statements that were a product of their imagination;” it was aware of “bad blood” between TMTG and Wilkerson; it “deliberately and recklessly conveyed a false narrative” to “sensationalize” its reporting and “injure” TMTG; it published the article with “the intent to inflict injury;” it “harbored extreme bias, ill-will and desire to inflict harm on TMTG through knowing falsehoods;” and that the Post was aware of another lawsuit filed by TMTG’s CEO, Devin Nunes, against the Guardian for a similar article published prior to the Post’s May 13 article.
The lawsuit requests a trial by jury, $2.78 billion in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages.
May 20, 2023 — Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. v. The Washington Post