Omnipresent presidential candidate Donald Trump made a stop by The Washington Post yesterday to talk with the editorial board. As usual, Trump had a few words about his treatment in the press, not to mention, his views on the recent ruling in Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea’s case against Gawker over leaked clips of Bollea having sex.
The Post’s publisher Frederick Ryan Jr. alluded to Trump’s previous statements that the media has been “biased or unfair or outright false” in their reporting. He referred to the candidate’s views on “opening up” libel laws.
“I might not have to, based on Gawker. Right?” Trump said. “That was an amazing…”
Ryan cut Trump off, steering the question away from Gawker, which was sued for violating the privacy of Bollea, and bringing the conversation to how the candidate would use his presidential powers to effect change when it came to libel laws. The distinction appeared muddled by Trump.
He offered a verbal detour that took him back to Bollea: “What I would do, what I would do is I’d — well right now the libel laws, I mean I must tell you that the Hulk Hogan thing was a tremendous shock to me because — not only the amount and the fact that he had the victory — because for the most part I think libel laws almost don’t exist in this country, you know, based on, based on everything I’ve seen and watched and everything else, and I just think that if a paper writes something wrong — media, when I say paper I’m talking about media — I think that they can do a retraction if they’re wrong. They should at least try to get it right.”
He continued: “And if they don’t do a retraction, they should, they should, you know, have a form of a trial. I don’t want to impede free press, by the way. The last thing I would want to do is that. But I mean I can only speak for — I probably get more — do I, I mean, you would know, do I get more publicity than any human being on the earth?”
Trump said there has been “no recourse” in unfair stories against him, to which columnist Ruth Marcus asked: “So in a better world would you be able to sue me?”
Trump, who has been embroiled in a heated back and forth with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, said “in a better world” he’d be able to “get a correction.”
Ryan added that in defamation suits, proving malice is required, asking: “Would you weaken that? Would you require less than malice for news organizations?”
Trump took the bait, saying he would loosen the definition or “get a little bit away from it.”
“Look, I think many of the stories about me are written badly,” he complained. “I don’t know if it’s malice because the people don’t know me.”
He referred to columnists at The Post, noting that they’ve “never really met,” or even bothered to “call him” in order to get his point of view.
One editorial writer made the case that “incorrect,” “fairness” and “accuracy” were confounded.
The editors returned to libel, asking how would libel laws change given the Supreme Court ruling in Sullivan v. New York Times.
“I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you, but I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up,” he said, jabbing at The Post for unfavorable coverage. “I want to make it more fair from the side where I am, because things are said that are libelous, things are said about me that are so egregious and so wrong, and right now, according to the libel laws, I can do almost nothing about it because I’m a well-known person you know, etc., etc.”
The editors seemed nonplussed, or perhaps tired of asking the same question without a clear answer, and moved on to foreign policy issues. A full transcript can be found on The Washington Post’s Web site.