Donald Trump Threatens to Sue If CNN Doesn’t Apologize, Retract ‘Big Lie’ – With Libel Law on Justices’ To-Do List

The former president set a deadline of Sunday

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Donald Trump has threatened CNN with a lawsuit over the network’s reporting of “The Big Lie.”

His lawyers insist in a letter to the network that he simply believes it.

As far-fetched as it may seem, the threat comes less than a month after two Supreme Court Justices raised the stakes when they made it known they want to reconsider the First Amendment precedent that set actual malice as the libel standard for public figures.

The Trump letter, a copy of which was obtained by TheWrap, says that if CNN doesn’t publish a “full and fair correction,” apology or retraction within 10 days, a lawsuit will be filed seeking damages.

“This letter serves as formal notice of the false statements about President Donald J. Trump (“President Trump”) in numerous articles and televised transmissions published by Cable News Network, Inc. (“CNN”) including, but not limited to, those discussed below,” states the letter, dated last Thursday, July 21, giving CNN a deadline of Sunday. “Specifically, the Kafkaesque correspondence focuses on on-air and online use by CNN marque talent and reporters of the term the ‘Big Lie’ in regards to Trump’s repeated assertions that the 2020 election was stolen from him and the GOP.”

The letter comes less than a month after Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch said they wanted to reconsider the landmark First Amendment ruling from 1964 that set actual malice instead of negligence as the libel standard for public figures, placing the bar impossibly high for many such lawsuits. The justices’ comments were part of the dissenting opinion as the court declined to hear a libel case brought by Shkelzen Berisha, the son of a former prime minister of Albania, which stemmed from the contents of a book on arms dealers that the 2016 Jonah Hill movie “War Dogs” was based on.

The justices pegged their arguments to the vast changes in how modern news is consumed, saying 1964’s New York Times vs. Sullivan doctrine was outmoded.

“This court’s pronouncement that the First Amendment requires public figures to establish actual malice bears ‘no relation to the text, history or structure of the Constitution,’” Justice Thomas wrote, referring to a lower court’s ruling.

In Trump’s case, his lawyers essentially say in the letter to CNN, which spans 282 pages, that Trump can’t be a liar or promulgate a “Big Lie” — because he is simply and sincerely ignorant of the truth.

“In this instance, President Trump’s comments are not lies: He subjectively believes that the results of the 2020 presidential election turned on fraudulent voting activity in several key states,” the letter says.

Trump’s lawyers then define the word lie from Webster’s Dictionary.

“Without regard for President Trump’s genuine belief in his statements, CNN has published numerous articles characterizing him as a ‘liar’ and the purveyor of the ‘Big Lie,’” the letter goes on to say.

CNN did not comment Wednesday to TheWrap regarding Trump’s letter.

Trump has prolifically promulgated “The Big Lie” since the 2020 presidential election, though he has on rare occasion let slip publicly that Joe Biden was the winner.

“CNN must publish a full and fair correction, apology, or retraction,” the letter demands, “in the same editions or corresponding issues of the website publication in which the aforementioned articles, transcripts, or broadcasts appeared and in as conspicuous a place and type as said original article, transcript or broadcast within ten (10) days from the date of service of this notice.”

“Failure to publish such a correction, apology, or retraction will result in the filing of a lawsuit and damages being sought against you, CNN.” 

Trump, in a statement to media on Wednesday after news of the CNN letter broke, promised more potential threats and lawsuits are to come.

“I will also be commencing actions against other media outlets who have defamed me and defrauded the public regarding the overwhelming evidence of fraud throughout the 2020 Election,” Trump said in the statement. “I will never stop fighting for the truth and for the future of our Country!”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.