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January 30, 2017

US judge says Melania Trump can pursue libel lawsuit against blogger over ‘escort’ rumours

By Freddy Mayhew

Melania Trump has been told by a US judge that she can pursue a libel lawsuit against a blogger who reported rumours alleging that she had previously worked as a high-end escort.

Blogger Webster Tarpley, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, could face a legal battle with the First Lady following the ruling at the Montgomery County Circuit court, near Washington DC, on Friday.

A second motion to dismiss Trump’s lawsuit against Mail Media Inc, listed as the publishers of the Daily Mail in the US, over its reporting of the rumours was deferred.

Trump has also filed a lawsuit with the High Court against the Daily Mail UK.

Tarpley’s lawyer, Danielle Giroux, said her client’s August blog post had accurately reported the fact that there had been rumours about Trump’s modelling past, according to the Associated Press reported in the Guardian.

Giroux said: “He did not say that Melania Trump was a high-class escort. What he said was there are rumours about that.”

Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, said the rumour was untrue and that reporting rumours did not excuse defamatory statements.

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Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in his successful $140m lawsuit against Gawker which resulted in the site being closed down, said: “The job of a reporter is to vet it before you publish it.”

He also claimed a passage in Tarpley’s blog post – “it is also widely known that Melania was not a working model but rather a high end escort” – put the rumours as fact.

Judge Sharon Burrell agreed with Harder and denied Tarpley’s motion to dismiss, saying: “There can be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute.”

Trump filed the lawsuit in Maryland in September after both Tarpley and the Daily Mail issued retractions. Papers indicated she was claiming at least $75,000 (more than £50,000) from each defendant.

Harder has previously estimated the damages against Trump at $150m.

Picture: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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