‘Rhetorical Hyperbole:’ In Ruling for Trump in Stormy Daniels Libel Case, Judge Says President’s Tweet Shouldn’t Be Taken Literally
Stormy Daniels’s libel lawsuit over a tweet by Donald Trump accusing her of “a total con job” was thrown out by a judge who said the president was engaging in free speech.
The adult film star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed she was threatened by an unknown man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 for agreeing to cooperate with a magazine article about a tryst she says she had with Trump in 2006. After her lawyer released a composite sketch of the man, Trump accused Clifford in an April tweet of “a total con job” concerning a “nonexistent man.”
“The court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the U.S.,” U.S. District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles said in a ruling Monday. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
Trump’s lawyers had argued that Clifford — far from being harmed — has benefited financially from her public dispute with the president.
“We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal,” Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said in a statement. “There is something really rich in Trump relying on the First Amendment to justify defaming a woman.”
The judge awarded Trump reasonable attorney’s fees.
“No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, said in a statement.
The case is Clifford v. Trump, 18-cv-06893, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).