CNN is asking a judge in Florida to toss a lawsuit filed by former President Trump against the network earlier this fall on First Amendment grounds.
The cable news network and Trump’s lawyers have battled in court in recent weeks over the former president’s lawsuit accusing CNN of defamation over its coverage of his 2020 election claims.
In the lawsuit filed in October, Trump’s attorneys argued CNN “has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source — to defame the Plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically, culminating in CNN claiming credit for ‘[getting] Trump out’ in the 2020 presidential election.”
The company pushed back on those claims in a filing in federal court this week, asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, which seeks $475 million in punitive damages.
“The Complaint seeks to silence any criticism of Plaintiff’s debunked claim that the 2020 presidential election was ‘stolen.’ The lawsuit, though, does not even try to prove this claim is true, for the simple reason that evidence of material election fraud does not exist,” CNN’s lawyers wrote. “These claims are untenable and repugnant to a free press and open political debate.”
Trump’s initial lawsuit pointed to journalists at CNN using the term “Big Lie” to refer to Trump’s false assertions about his 2020 election loss and his allegations of widespread voter fraud, and accused the network of attempting to associate him with Adolf Hitler.
“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,” the Trump lawyers wrote.
CNN’s lawyers shot back this week that the “Big Lie” is “widely used by not just CNN but many journalists and commentators to refer to Plaintiff’s unfounded claims of election fraud.”
They added, “Any alleged association resulting therefrom are also ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ and ‘pure opinion’ under well-established principles of defamation law.”
In order to prove defamation, public officials and other public figures must prove journalists acted with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth in their reporting, a high legal bar to clear given First Amendment protections granted to the free press under the Constitution.
Trump and his allies have long attacked the network and the mainstream media more generally as biased against him. His lawyers argue in their lawsuit against CNN that Trump has been slandered in recent months amid “fears” he would run for president again in 2024.
Trump announced his third White House run last week from Mar-a-Lago.