First lady Melania Trump settled defamation lawsuits she had filed against the tabloid and online editions of the Daily Mail, one of her attorneys said Wednesday, effectively ending litigation that had roots in Montgomery County just north of Washington.
The Daily Mail agreed to pay unspecified damages to Melania Trump, said the lawyer, Charles Harder. The first lady had previously settled similar claims against Webster Tarpley, a blogger who operates out of his townhouse in Gaithersburg, Md.
It was Tarpley’s residence in Montgomery County that prompted Trump’s attorneys to file many of their claims in Montgomery County. Trump arrived in person at a pretrial hearing in December for her case.
Her surprise visit on a Monday morning sent buzz racing through the Montgomery Circuit Courthouse in Rockville, as did the anticipation that she could be squaring off in a lengthy defamation trial sometime in 2017. But that will not be happening, and all claims in the matter appear to have been settled in payments, retractions and apologies to Trump.
It was the blogger, Tarpley, 71, who published the first story, on www.tarpley.net, that caught the attention of Trump’s attorneys. On Aug. 2, 2016, Tarpley reported about unfounded rumors that Melania Trump once worked as a high-end escort and stated that Trump may have suffered a nervous breakdown after her speech at the Republican National Convention.
Melania Trump sued him on Sept. 1. At the time, her attorneys also named as defendants the online Daily Mail, which published a similar article in August.
In court filings, Trump’s attorneys argued that while the Daily Mail print edition was published in the United Kingdom, its online edition was published in New York and — since it had readers in Maryland — it could be sued in Montgomery County. Montgomery Circuit Judge Sharon Burrell rejected that argument, so Trump’s attorneys refiled their lawsuit against the online Daily Mail in New York.
Additionally, in September, Trump’s attorney also sued the Daily Mail newspaper in the United Kingdom.
Harder released a joint statement Wednesday on behalf of the first lady and the Daily Mail print and online publications. It included an apology from the publications, which stated:
“The Daily Mail newspaper and Mail Online/DailyMail.com website published an article on 20th August 2016 about Melania Trump which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modeling. The article included statements that Mrs. Trump denied the allegations and Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modeling agency, also denied the allegations, and the article also stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations. The article also claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and “staged” their actual meeting as a ‘ruse.’
“We accept that these allegations about Mrs. Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologize to Mrs. Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs. Trump’s two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs.”
Tarpley also issued a statement after settling in February with the first lady.
“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her,” the blogger said in the statement provided by Trump’s attorneys.