A federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump has granted CNN's motion to dismiss a $475 million defamation case brought by the former president.
Trump sued CNN for labeling his 2020 presidential election challenger "the Big Lie" — a term he argued is defamatory because it created "a false and incendiary association" with Adolf Hitler.
"CNN's statements while repugnant, were not, as a matter of law, defamatory," U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Raag Singhal concluded in his ruling Friday. "The case will, therefore, be dismissed with prejudice."
Trump's lawyers had argued "use of the phrase 'the Big Lie' constitutes defamation per se because it 'create[s] a false and incendiary association between the Plaintiff and Hitler,'" according to the court document. "He argues that the use of the phrase 'the Big Lie' is defamatory because it 'has incited readers and viewers to hate, contempt, distrust, ridicule, and even fear the plaintiff causing injury to the plaintiff, the plaintiff's reputation, and the plaintiff's political career."
The term 'the Big Lie' has been linked to Nazis and Hitler from the propaganda strategy as quoted by "Mein Kampf": "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
Trump's defamation lawsuit argued CNN's viewers and readers would be led to have "understood that plaintiff would be Hitler-like in any future political role" and CNN failed to use the term "the Big Lie" when Democrats previously had challenged elections and complained about election integrity issues.
The disparate treatment showed malice toward Trump and was "evidence" that CNN was "not reporting the news, but rather propagating its political views," Trump's lawsuit added.
Trump sought at least $75,000 in damages and punitive damages of $475 million.
Singhal ruled the statements made by CNN were potentially defamatory under Florida law, but that "Trump's defamation claims fail" on being "provably false."
On that issue, he made the following arguments:
- "First, the complained of statements are opinion, not factually false statements, and therefore are not actionable."
- "This is the news model of today," noting this is the age of real-time social media sharing of news and opinion, without research or fact-finding.
- "[P]olitical motivation does not establish falsity. ... Acknowledging that CNN acted with political enmity does not save this case; the Complaint alleges no false statements of fact."
"Trump alleges that 'the Big Lie' refers to a Nazi 'propaganda campaign to justify Jewish persecution and genocide,'" Singhal wrote. "Like Trump and CNN personalities Ashleigh Banfield and Paul Steinhauser, the court finds Nazi references in the political discourse (made by whichever 'side') to be odious and repugnant.
"But bad rhetoric is not defamation when it does not include false statements of fact. CNN's use of the phrase 'the Big Lie' in connection with Trump's election challenges does not give rise to a plausible inference that Trump advocates the persecution and genocide of Jews or any other group of people.
"No reasonable viewer could (or should) plausibly make that reference.
"... And even if the phrase 'the Big Lie" could somehow plausibly compel a reasonable viewer to perceive Trump as 'Hitler-like,' or 'authoritarian,' such terms are not statements of fact subject to defamation laws 'because of the tremendous imprecision of the meaning and usage of such terms in the realm of political debate."
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.