The attitude of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail - along with their counterparts at the Mail On Sunday and Mail Online - towards anyone who takes exception to being monstered, smeared or defamed by the outlets - often all three - is well known. The little people are told to “come and sue us if you think you’re hard enough”. Even the well-off get the run around.
What d'you f***ing mean I have to say sorry or else, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
The litany of litigation against the Mail is the stuff of legend: Nick Davies featured a brief inventory of names, along with confirmation that damages were paid in every case, in his go-to book on the workings of the press Flat Earth News, Zelo Street has covered the blatant libelling of author Jo Rowling and businessman Andy Miller, and for the folks at campaigning group Hacked Off, the Mail’s attitude is an ideal recruiting sergeant.
Why the Mail should behave in this manner was summarised by Davies succinctly: “because the penalty is no match for the rewards of the behaviour which is being penalised”. Well, that might be the case in the UK, but in the USA, despite the provisions of the First Amendment, deliberate defamation can result in eye-watering - and financially crippling - damages being levied, as witness the recent fall of Gawker.
And that is where the Mail may have come badly unstuck, after it published two characteristically nudge-and-wink headlined articles titled “Racy photos, and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump” and “Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won't go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump's Slovenian wife”. “Troubling questions” is Mail speak for They Done It.
Lawyer Charles Harder - maybe harder than the Dacre doggies - has filed a complaint before the Circuit Court for Montgomery County in the US state of Maryland on behalf of Melania Trump over suggestions in the Mail’s articles that she was a high-end escort in New York during the 1990s. His statement tells “Defendants' actions are so egregious, malicious and harmful to Mrs Trump that her damages are estimated at $150m”.
That leaves the Mail open to having to pay rather more than The Two Dollars, causing the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker to experience involuntary bowel movements. Hence the grovelling “To the extent that anything in the Daily Mail's article was interpreted as stating or suggesting that Mrs. Trump worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business,' that she had a 'composite or presentation card for the sex business,' or that either of the modeling agencies referenced in the article were engaged in these businesses, it is hereby retracted, and the Daily Mail newspaper regrets any such misinterpretation”.
And the grovelling continues: “The Daily Mail newspaper and MailOnline/DailyMail.com have entirely separate editors and journalistic teams … In so far as MailOnline/DailyMail.com published the same article it wholeheartedly also retracts the above and also regrets any such misinterpretation”. So what is Ms Trump going to do about that?
Melania Trump is continuing her case against the Mail. Someone has decided to make an example of Dacre and his doggies; that is why the retraction was so swift. But they may find that “We didn’t mean it, honestly, so please don’t take us to the cleaners” isn’t going to pacify Trump’s lawyers - or the Montgomery County Circuit Court. The Mail could be in very big trouble. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving publisher.