WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is “looking into” ways to potentially change the nation’s libel laws to make it easier to go after reporters whose stories they deem inaccurate.
That’s according to President Trump’s chief spokesman Sean Spicer who told reporters during a Monday briefing that: “that is something that is being looked into, substantively and then both logistically how it would happen.”
Trump had pledged during his campaign to “open up” the nation’s libel laws — a process that could not be accomplished by the White House. That would require a constitutional amendment or a reversal of Supreme Court precedent interpreting the First Amendment.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC on Sunday that the issue has been discussed — but cautioned that “how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”
Trump repeatedly threatened news outlets with lawsuits during his campaign and first lady Melania Trump last month reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper for reporting rumors about her time as a model.
Libel law in the U.S. generally makes it difficult for public figures to sue reporters and others who criticize them. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that a plaintiff must demonstrate that statements were factually inaccurate as well as made with “actual malice” or a “reckless disregard” for the truth.
Trump has railed against what he deems unfair media coverage, labeling many outlets “fake news” and declaring them “the enemy of the American People!”
At a Texas campaign rally, Trump said he wanted to “open up” U.S. libel laws “so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
“Believe me: If I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems,” he said then.
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