First Lady Melania Trump settled a defamation case against blogger Webster Tarpley for an undisclosed "substantial sum", Reuters reported on 7 February.
The Maryland blogger had published baseless claims about the first lady's past and mental health state. She sued him for defamation, demanding $150m in damage to her reputation.
Tarpley apologised to Trump in a statement released by her lawyer Charles Harder: "I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements."
One of Tarpley's attorneys confirmed the accuracy of the statement to Reuters, adding the case had been resolved. Neither parties wanted to disclose the amount, but Harder called it "substantial".
The first lady's legal battle continues in New York, where her lawyers filed for a defamation claim against the Daily Mail publisher Mail Media Inc on 6 February for reporting Tarpley's allegations in both the print and online publications. Trump sued again for $150m, claiming that the publication lost her "unique, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity," to launch a commercial brand.
The Daily Mail retracted the stories on 1 September, but argued they made clear there was no support for the claims, including a statement from Melania Trump's spokesperson. "The point of the article was that these allegations could impact the US presidential election even if they are untrue," the Daily Mail wrote in the lengthy retraction.
Harder, who successfully defended wrestler Hulk Hogan in a lawsuit against the website Gawker in 2016, stated the retraction would not make any difference to the legal proceedings because reporters cannot make defamatory statements under the guise of reporting rumours.
Trump's attorneys will have to demonstrate a number of facts: that the statements are indeed false; that they harmed her reputation (according to some interpretations of US law, claims of criminality or immorality are defamatory by definition); and that the Daily Mail acted with malice, meaning that either they were aware of the statements' falseness and published it anyway, or acted with "reckless disregard for the truth," without adequately verifying the claims' truthfulness.
"The courts have generally given the media wide latitude for error in these cases, saying that even a failure to follow normal journalistic standards to verify information is not 'reckless disregard'," said Eric Robinson, media law expert at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at University of South Carolina.
According to him, the Daily Mail will likely file a motion to dismiss. "The law strongly favours such dismissals, particularly in First Amendment cases. I did studies several years ago showing that about 66 per cent of libel cases in the US are dismissed at this stage," he told IBTimes UK. The parties could also decide to settle at any step of the process.