Donald Trump on Monday sued CNN for defamation, seeking $475 million in damages for what he calls a “campaign of libel and slander” for “defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler.”
The lawsuit, filed in a Florida federal court and obtained by TheWrap, claims that CNN has dialed up the rhetoric because the news network fears he’ll run again in 2024.
“As a part of its concerted effort to tilt the political balance to the left,” the lawsuit reads, “CNN has tried to taint the Plaintiff with a series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has made a habit of suing media outlets going back to time immemorial. He sued CNN as recently as 2020 over an opinion piece titled “Soliciting dirt on your opponents from a foreign government is a crime.” The disposition of multiple such cases, including those filed against The New York Times and New York Post in recent years, could not be immediately determined.
First Amendment scholars who have spoken to TheWrap said that defamation suits like these are not likely to succeed.
The lawsuit takes special issue with alleged comparisons to Hitler, saying it demonstrates “actual malice,” a key component of any defamation action.
“Most notably, and, the subject of this complaint, is CNN’s persistent association of the Plaintiff to Adolf Hitler and Nazism,” the lawsuit says. “When labels like ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ and ‘insurrectionist’ did not have the desired effect to undermine the Plaintiff’s candidacy when running for President or the Plaintiff’s accomplishments as President, CNN upped the stakes to conjure associations between the Plaintiff and arguably the most heinous figure in modern history.”
Several examples are cited in the filing, including an August 25, 2019, broadcast of the now-defunct “Reliable Sources” in which Brian Stelter interviewed psychiatrist Allen Frances, who said: “Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were in the last century.”
The suit also notes the line drawn between Trump and Hitler via CNN’s repeated use of the term “The Big Lie” in reference to the 2020 election.
“In its campaign of dissuasion, CNN has branded the Plaintiff as one who subscribes to the notion of the ‘Big Lie.’ The ‘Big Lie’ is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.'”
The lawsuit demands a jury trial for compensatory damages of more than $75,000 (the jurisdictional limit) and $475 million in punitive damages.
Loree Seitz contributed to this report.