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Trump Files Defamation Lawsuit Against ABC News and George Stephanopoulos

— March 22, 2024

In his lawsuit, Trump claims that ABC News and media personality George Stephanopoulos “defamed” him by asserting that the former president had been found liable for the “rape” of E. Jean Carroll.

Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against ABC News and George Stephanopoulos, claiming that the television host made defamatory comments during a recent interview.

According to USA Today, Trump’s “longshot” complaint centers on comments Stephanopoulos made during an interview with U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) on an episode of “This Week.”

Speaking to Mace, Stephanopoulos said, “You endorsed Donald Trump for president. Judges and two separate juries have found him liable for rape and for defaming the victim of that rape.”

Stephanopoulos then asked Mace how she could reconcile her support for Trump with her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault. Mace, in response, noted that civil courts have a lower burden of proof than their criminal counterparts—and suggested that Stephanopoulos was trying to weaponize Mace’s victimization for political purposes.

“It was not a criminal court case, number one,” Mace said. “Number two, I live with shame. And you’re asking me a question about my political choices trying to shame me as a rape victim.”

Although Trump was found liable for defaming and sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll, a former columnist who claims that Trump assaulted her in a New York City department store in the mid-1990s, Trump has long maintained his innocence.

A man in a suit stands at a podium, pointing.
Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

In the Carroll case, a jury found that the plaintiff had not established that Trump forcibly penetrated her with his penis, but concluded that it was “more likely true than not” that Trump had abused her by forcibly inserting his fingers into her vagina or anus.

But Trump, in his lawsuit, appears to take particular issue with Stephanopoulos’s use of the term “rape”—a charge for which Trump was not found liability.

However, Judge Lewis Kaplan—who oversaw the case and affirmed the jury’s verdict—had earlier observed that New York state has a much narrower definition of rape than that provided by federal law. In federal courts, sexual assault is typically defined as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

“The jury,” Kaplan wrote in July of 2023, “found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”

A month later, Kaplan went even further, explaining that “Mr. Trump did in fact ‘rape’ Ms. Carroll as that term commonly is used and understood.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s lawsuit alleges that Stephanopoulos—while speaking to Mace—acted with “malice or with a reckless disregard for the truth,” knowing that “these statements are patently and demonstrably false.”

Trump’s lawsuit, like many of the former president’s other claims against different news networks and media personalities, is not expected to succeed.


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