A New York Times article can't hurt Donald Trump's reputation after the month he's had. That's the crux of the argument a lawyer for the newspaper made today in a letter sent in response to Trump's latest legal threats.
"Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself," David McCraw, assistant general counsel for the Times, wrote in a letter addressed to Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Kasowitz sent a letter to Times executive editor Dean Baquet accusing the newspaper of publishing a "libelous article" with respect to a report, first published online on Wednesday evening, in which two women accused Trump of touching (and in one case kissing) them inappropriately in separate incidents. In his letter to Baquet, Kasowitz called the article "reckless, defamatory" and said it constitutes libel. The lawyer also claimed in the letter that the timing of the Times article, coming less than a month before Election Day, is evidence that the report "is nothing more than a politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump's candidacy."
Kasowitz demanded that the Times cease further publication of the article, remove it from the paper's website, and issue a full retraction and apology to the GOP nominee.
In his response letter, the Times' lawyer bluntly declined those requests from Trump's legal team despite the threat of a potential libel lawsuit against the newspaper. McCraw essentially argues that the various controversial statements Trump has made about women over the years, some of which just recently came to light, have already tarnished the real estate mogul's reputation to the point that the Times' article could not hurt it further.
The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one's reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host's request to discuss Mr. Trump's own daughter as a 'piece of ass.' Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump's unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.
The Times' attorney also argued that Trump's proximity to the nation's highest office, and the fact that Trump's past treatment of women has become a major talking point in the election, mean that the article in question addresses "an issue of national importance." Indeed, the most recent presidential debate last Sunday featured a fair amount of talk regarding the recently revealed video footage from 2005 that showed Trump essentially boasting about making unwanted sexual advances toward women. And, in addition to the Times' article on Wednesday, several more women came forward with similar accusations against Trump this week in other publications, including People and The Guardian.
"We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern," McCraw wrote to close the letter to Kasowitz. "If Mr. Trump disagrees . . . we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight."