How close to libel and slander is Trump

Note: Although controversial to some, this thread is intended to answer the factual question asked and is not meant to push political opinion or adgendas. It is not meant to be related to the election in general. So please play nice.

Donald Trump says and writes (in tweets) a lot of things that sure seem like they fall under the category of slander and libel to me, the lay person. Looking up the definition of both on the internet seems to buoy that position. But IANAL. Does the things he says rise to that level and Hillary and others ignore it or is he staying just this side of a line.

Google “Trump news”.
But I’ll provide a few examples,

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD”

He dubbed Dr. Ben Carson a “pathological liar”.

Trump claims MSNBC edited their released version of his interview with Chris Matthews in which Trump stumbled on abortion: “You really ought to hear the whole thing. I mean, this is a long convoluted question. This was a long discussion, and they just cut it out. And, frankly, it was extremely — it was really convoluted.” A lie - here’s the full transcript: http://info.

Or watch the debates, he claims for example that Clinton has ‘tremendous hate in her heart’.

Some of Trump’s statements - like the claim that the election is being rigged - do not identify particular people. If you sue Trump you need to show that he has defamed you. Can you prove than when Trump says “dishonest and distorted media” the ordinary person would reasonably understand that to mean you? If not, you have no case.

Others come within the category of “mere vulgar abuse”. Politicians calling one another liars is a classic example of the kind of abuse that is considered to be insufficiently specific to be taken as defamatory in the context of the hustings.

Trump called Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor”.

Is that specific enough?

“Traitor” is a matter of opinion. If Trump said Bergdahl had been convicted of treason, falsely, that would be actionable. It takes more than saying mean things to justify a lawsuit. It has to be a lie that damages your reputation. And you can say pretty much anything you want about non-incorporated groups(“the media”) or politicians.

Even with ordinary women off the street, Trump can call them whores, sluts, and trollops, but if he says clearly that one of them is in fact a prostitute when she isn’t, that would be libel or slander.

Now one area of the law I’ve always wondered about is slandering the reputation of your accusers. So a woman claims to have had an affair with a politician. He denies it and calls her a liar, and his supporters and allies say a lot of really derogatory things about her. Then he ends up being forced to admit she told the truth because she has a blue dress or video or phone conversations or something. Can she sue for slander since a person of power orchestrated a calculated campaign to discredit her?

Given his reputation, you may have a difficult time showing that a ‘reasonable person’ would believe anything he says.

[Not a personal jab, just the facts of such a case.]

Some parties such as National Enquirer, and even Fox News have reached the point where a ‘reasonable person’ wouldn’t believe their outlandish claims, so they can say what they like and you couldn’t really prevail in a suit against them.

It is considered a perfectly reasonable defense to say “Yes, my client lied, but no reasonable person would believe it.”

See, for example, the suit Trump actually filed against Bill Maher about his joke that Trump’s father was an orangutan.

And that’s why we need “loser pays”.

I’m not doubting you but cite? Bill Mahar is a satirist by trade. It’s clear to me that Trump (a politician now) is saying the things he says to cause harm to others. And clearly thousands, if not millions, believe him. Clinton (for example) has been harmed in the eyes of many. Some Trump supporters, for example, are now talking openly of assasinating Hillary should she be elected. Though I suppose that would be "inciting’ rather that slander.

Libel and slander exist as legal concepts to protect private people. A person ceases to have privacy fully protected, when he chooses to become a public figure and to gain the benefit of that status. It is much harder to make the case of libel or slander against a person who has voluntarily become an individual of public interest, and by so doing, relinquished some of the protection of their privacy.

If I lie in a private conversation with someone, I am protected by libel/slander laws from having that lie brought to public attention. But if I seek a status in which I present myself as a public figure, I can be held by others, in public statements, to account for my statements or conduct.

If every politician was to be locked up for “libel and slander” we’d need to build a bunch more prisons.

Add in Dopers who’ve referred to various politicos in “slanderous” ways and this place wouldn’t have a single poster to turn off the light when leaving.

Forget libel and slander. His “second amendment people” comment should have him charged with Seditious Conspiracy.

With whom did he develop a plan to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof”.

There has to be an actual plan, not just mouthed words along certain lines.

Cite that Trump would prevail if someone sued him? Sorry, I don’t have that one.

Cite that the judicial ‘reasonable person’ would believe something (and a judge/jury would find such), even if “thousands, if not millions” of Trump supporters believe something? Sorry again. I’m not claiming that they would/wouldn’t clear that hurdle, just describing the hurdle they would have to clear to prevail in a suit.

What about the individual women whom he has accused of conspiring against him, lying to cost him the election. Haven’t they been slandered?

In general it is hard to slander a public figure. It has to be, not just false, but reckless disregard of the truth or something like that. What he has said about Hillary might rise to that standard (she founded ISIS?) but it would be a hard case to make.

And again, it doesn’t matter if millions of Trump supporters actually believe based on his claim that Hillary founded ISIS, you have to show in court that a ‘reasonable person’ would believe that based on Trump’s claim. Given his reputation and penchant for lies, that is very difficult.

I would suggest that a cite to a similar case would be needed to make an assertion in this forum that Trump could be successfully prosecuted for libel. IOW, if you think he could be prosecuted for X, show that some other politician has successfully been prosecuted for X in the past. Lord knows some politician somewhere has said whatever Trump has said somewhere at some time or another.

Playing devil’s advocate, wouldn’t the fact that millions of people believe him be a good case that a reasonable person might believe him. Surely there would be a few them on the jury?

(If these things are decided by juries, which I have no idea if they are)

The issue of whether or not “Trump supporters” are “reasonable people” is more suited to GD than GQ. :wink:

You don’t go to prison for libel and slander, you get sued and forced to pay damages if you lose.

I’m not sure what you think the difference is here, but falsely accusing someone of being a prostitute is no more or less actionable than falsely accusing them of being whores, sluts, or trollops.

Accusing a woman (specifically) of unchastity is defamation per se in most jurisdictions, meaning damages do not have to be proven.

What protects Trump in the case of specific women whose virtue he questions is that either (1) they are public figures, or (2) the issue is of public concern. In either case, they would have to prove “actual malice” to prevail against him in suit. That’s not really what it sounds like - it means they would have to establish that he knew the accusations were false, rather than merely that he did not know if they were true. Alternatively, if he calls a large amorphous group of women (“Hillary supporters”) sluts, he has probably not defamed anyone in particular.

If he just called some random lady (“Loretta Smith at 221 Johnson Avenue”) a whore, she could certainly sue.

So the way to avoid being sued for slander is to tell lies all over town such that no “reasonable person” will believe anything I say? Cool.