Trump Threatens To Sue The Pulitzer Prize Board For Defamatory Refusal To Revoke A Prize

“There is no dispute that the Pulitzer Board’s award to those media outlets was based on false and fabricated information that they published,” he blustered. “The continuing publication and recognition of the Prizes on the Board’s website is a distortion of fact and a personal defamation that will result in the filing of litigation if the Board cannot be persuaded to do the right thing on its own.”

And this week he’s back, posting on his Dear Diary page:

The Russia, Russia, Russia hoax has been totally debunked. The fake news media covered it incorrectly—reporting exactly the opposite of what actually happened.

Yet, the Pulitzer Board has not rescinded the prizes they awarded for reporting that was inaccurate, inept, and corrupt.

In order to restore the credibility of the Pulitzer Prizes, the Pulitzer Board should take away prizes from all who got it wrong.

Additionally, it would be appropriate to award new prizes to all those who got it right.

He also got a brand new team of lawyers from a boutique business litigation firm in St. Petersburg, Florida to fire off yet another nastygram threatening to sue the Pulitzer people for “defaming” him. The statute of limitations for defamation in Florida is two years, and so you might be forgiven for thinking that it had already tolled for a prize awarded in 2018.

But no, they insist, because the Pulitzer people issued a denial of Trump’s claims in July in response to his public carping, and thus “the Board and its individual members may be subject to suit and exposed to a judgment for damages, including punitive damages, for defamation.

The Pulitzer’s statement reads:

The Pulitzer Prize Board has an established, formal process by which complaints against winning entries are carefully reviewed. In the last three years, the Pulitzer Board has received inquiries, including from former President Donald Trump, about submissions from The New York Times and The Washington Post on Russian interference in the U.S. election and its connections to the Trump campaign–submissions that jointly won the 2018 National Reporting prize.

These inquiries prompted the Pulitzer Board to commission two independent reviews of the work submitted by those organizations to our National Reporting competition. Both reviews were conducted by individuals with no connection to the institutions whose work was under examination, nor any connection to each other. The separate reviews converged in their conclusions: that no passages or headlines, contentions or assertions in any of the winning submissions were discredited by facts that emerged subsequent to the conferral of the prizes.

It’s hard to know whether the legal eagles who drafted this document were inspired by (or even aware of) the Eighth Circuit’s wacko holding that reporter Ryan Lizza republished his story about then-congressman Devin Nunes by retweeting it when Nunes and his family denied its claims. The appellate court found that, while the original publication was not defamatory because Lizza showed no actual malice under the New York Times v. Sullivan standard, Nunes’s denial put the reporter on notice, so retweeting the story was a new publication which might have been defamatory.

But since the Pulitzer Board never published the stories in the first place, it can’t have republished them in July simply by saying that it investigated and would not be regifting the prizes to the Daily Wire and Breitbart.

In any event, Trump’s newest lawyers have settled on the Pulitzer Board’s anodyne reaffirmation as the Defamatory Statement that will underpants gnome them into a viable libel suit:

By accrediting the false and misleading reporting of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize recipients with purported independent factual support, the Board has attempted to cast a halo around the entire universe of wrongful reporting in the Russia Collusion Hoax. The Board’s intent in publishing the Defamatory Statement is clear: to preserve and propagate the demonstrably false narrative that President Trump colluded with an adversarial foreign government to become President and thereafter continued that association in some capacity while in office. By publishing the Defamatory Statement, the Board and its members acted not only with reckless disregard for the truth, but with authentic animosity and malice toward President Trump and the desire to cause him true harm. As such the members of the Board are individually liable for the publication of the defamatory statement.

We note, that the letter is dated October 13 and demands that the “Defamatory Statement” be removed from the Pulitzer Board’s website within five days. It’s still up, but, hell, maybe these guys think they can get Judge Aileen Cannon, and somehow make this pile of dog vomit a thing.

Good luck, fellas!

Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.

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