‘If the Times stands by the accuracy of its own reporters and the veracity of their stories, then it knew or should have known that Frankel’s column was false…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett on Friday countered left-wing claims that President Donald Trump’s recent libel lawsuit against The New York Times was doomed to fail with a prompt dismissal.
Refuting the Times’ first line of defense—that the article was expressing an opinion protected under the First Amendment—Jarrett argued that the op-ed exceeded the scope of “opinion” in falsely claiming that Trump struck a quid-pro-quo bargain with Russia.
“In the months before the op-ed was published, reporters for the newspaper wrote at least four articles explaining that there was no evidence of a ‘deal’ or ‘quid pro quo’ between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Jarrett wrote in a post on his website.
“In essence, the Times confirmed in advance what special counsel Robert Mueller would eventually conclude in his April 2019 report,” he said.
The article in question ran on March 27, at which point the summary conclusions of the two-year Mueller report had been made public, although the report, itself, was continuing to be vetted and redacted by the Justice Department.
In the newspaper’s article, former Times executive editor Max Frankel asserted that although Mueller’s investigation debunked the question of collusion—an abstract, non-legal term that would be difficult to prosecute—there was, nonetheless, a tangible exchange of benefits between Russia and Trump.
In return for Russia’s hacking of emails from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, which later were posted on Wikileaks to expose her campaign’s unethical and corrupt practices, Frankel claimed that Trump offered the Kremlin a more favorable foreign policy.
But as Jarrett contended, Trump’s case not only should proceed on its merits, but it also could prove that the claims, on their face, were knowingly false statements, recklessly intended to damage the president—thereby meeting the standard for libel of a public figure.
He notes the precedent-setting 1964 case (also involving the newspaper), New York Times vs. Sullivan, which determined that a publication must have acted with “actual malice” in order for libel or defamation to have occurred.
“Can the Trump campaign show that the Times had ‘actual malice’? The evidence is contained in its own reporting,” Jarrett said.
“The newspaper’s previously published articles undermined or contradicted Frankel’s statement,” he continued. “… If the Times stands by the accuracy of its own reporters and the veracity of their stories, then it knew or should have known that Frankel’s column was false.”