First Lady Melania Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against The Daily Mail‘s online branch, Mail Online, for publishing a story in August 2016 that alleged she had once worked as an escort. Nothing is amiss with this situation. However, Melania must prove in her suit that the defamation caused personal damage in some way – and her reasoning is very troubling.
Melania seems to claim that Mail Online’s false article has damaged her ability to exploit the role of First Lady to turn a profit – an expected $150 million that she is seeking in damages. This would be highly illegal under the Emoluments Clause that prohibits an official and their family from profiting off of government office. In the suit Melania’s lawyers filed, she claims,
“Mail Online’s conduct was extreme and outrageous in falsely making the scurrilous charge that the future First Lady of the United States worked as a prostitute. Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.
“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.
“The [statements] also constitute defamation per se because they impugned on her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
The suit claims that Melania has a “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” where for several years she will be “one of the most photographed women in the world.” It is difficult to understand what Melania could possibly have been planning on doing to bring herself to such prominence besides embracing her role as First Lady (she is no longer an active model and focuses her attentions on her son, Barron).
The suit explicitly mentions that the defamatory claims made by Mail Online “impugned on her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady.” The suit does not say when Melania had planned to launch successful commercial endeavors, but it is keenly aware that how she is perceived as First Lady matters. At a minimum, we can infer that Melania thinks her role as First Lady has the potential to boost her commercial success.
President Donald Trump can only be described as a greedy, self-absorbed businessman so it is not a stretch to think his wife might be considering some less than upright business practices. Whoever’s idea it was, Melania’s business plans seem to be yet another unethical conflict of interest poisoning the last shreds of legitimacy the Trump Administration has left.