The Lincoln Project is being threatened with a lawsuit for their latest attack. This time the professional grifters took on Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. Two side-by-side giant billboards in Times Square have a message – Ivanka and Jared don’t care about the American people even during the coronavirus pandemic. Ivanka and Jared are pushing back against The Lincoln Project. The billboards are meant to be an attack on their response to the coronavirus.
One billboard ad shows Ivanka Trump gesturing to some coronavirus death statistics while broadly smiling. The photo appears to be an altered version of a selfie she took while holding a can of Goya beans to show her support of the Hispanic family-owned company. The company’s CEO attended a White House event and spoke favorably of President Trump and his administration’s economic policies. He also worked with President Obama’s administration but because he spoke favorably of Trump, he must be canceled. So, The Lincoln Project is doing the same by dragging Ivanka into the fray.
The other billboard ad targets an alleged quote made by Jared Kushner in a Vanity Fair article, attributed to an anonymous source, of course. The billboard includes a row of body bags next to a smiling Kushner, besides the out-of-context quote. Kushner was speaking about Gov. Cuomo’s botched response to the coronavirus in New York and Jared said, “[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”
Part of the Jared quote used in the billboard did appear in a Sept. 17 Vanity Fair article about an alleged March 21 White House meeting between Kushner and an ad hoc private sector group about the nation’s coronavirus response.
But the quote attributed to Kushner was fed to the magazine by an anonymous attendee, and the version in the ad lacks the original context.
“Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem,” the original quote attributed to Kushner read in the story.
The private sector group — consisting of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, business executives, and venture capitalists — had been lobbying the federal government to take the lead on directing PPE across the country, Vanity Fair report had said.
Context is everything, which The Lincoln Project grifters know, many of whom have long histories of running political campaigns. You remember the administrations of President McCain and President Romney, right? If Biden wins the election in November, they and other Never Trumpers in the media will likely have a rude awakening when they discover that Democrats don’t want them either. For now, they are just useful idiots for the left. Those state of the art kitchens in their mountain homes aren’t going to pay for themselves, amirite? Millions of dollars have been raised by the PAC and most of it goes right into their own pockets. Over 90% of the money donated has gone to businesses and groups directly tied to the members of The Lincoln Project. Grifters gonna grift.
So, Trump family lawyer Marc Kasowitz sent a letter to the PAC advising it of the intention to file a lawsuit unless the billboards are taken down immediately.
The letter threatens to sue the Lincoln Project unless it “immediately” removes the ads, calling the billboards “false, malicious, and defamatory.”
“Of course, Mr. Kushner never made any such statement, Ms. Trump never made any such gesture, and the Lincoln Project’s representations that they did are an outrageous and shameful libel,” Kasowitz wrote.
“If these billboard ads are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages,” the letter continued.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) October 24, 2020
The Lincoln Project’s response was standard for its brand – tough talk and bluster. The group is all about pain because they have felt it for four long years, being out in the political wilderness with their gravy train no longer running with Establishment Republicans.
Later Friday, the PAC responded, “It is unsurprising that an administration that has never had any regard or understanding of our Constitution would try to trample on our first amendment rights.”
The response continued, “But we fully intend on making this civics lesson as painful as possible.”
Do the Kushners have a case? Jonathan Turley thinks they might but it is a tough road ahead if a lawsuit is filed. Jared has more chance of success than Ivanka. He calls the billboards “callous” and the PAC may have added “openly defamatory” to their regular vicious attacks. The Trump lawyer asserting that Ivanka didn’t make that gesture used in the doctored photo probably would not be enough in court. Turley says that most people don’t believe Ivanka would mock death statistics and that this is a political parody.
Ivanka’s claim would be the most challenging to maintain in court. The image is taken from a selfie she tweeted in July in which she gestured toward a can of Goya black beans to show support for the company. However, the use of the image could be defended as political commentary and parody. Courts tend to avoid curtailing political speech, even when it is obnoxious or unfair.
Yet, the Supreme Court has shown that there are limits to opinion as a defense as in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990). In that case, there was another inflammatory allegation stemming from a public meeting. An Ohio high school wrestling coach sued over an opinion column alleging that he had lied under oath at a public hearing, saying that it was tantamount to an allegation of perjury. The trial judge granted summary judgment on the ground that the assertion in the newspaper column was opinion. The Court however rejected the defense in the case in 7-2 opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The Court noted that “expressions of ‘opinion’ may often imply an assertion of objective fact” and may inflict “as much damage to reputation” as factual claims. Moreover, some opinions are based on assertions that are “sufficiently factual to be susceptible of being proved true or false.”
Jared’s case is the better one. The quote originally appeared in Vanity Fair and has obviously been taken out of context. It also is a quote from an anonymous source.
The claim by Kushner is stronger. Kasowitz objected that “Of course, Mr. Kushner never made any such statement.” The line does appear both edited and misleading. The Jared quote appears to be taken from a Sept. 17 Vanity Fair article about an alleged March 21 White House meeting between Kushner and an ad hoc private sector group about the nation’s coronavirus response. First, the quote is based on an anonymous source from a publication that is decidedly anti-Trump. That could be important since reckless disregard can be based on the reliance on an uncertain or unreliable source. Since the Lincoln Project had presumably no independent source, this could pull Vanity Fair into the mix.
Putting aside the source, the quote itself is misrepresented. The article was on a meeting of business figures with Kushner on PPE orders for the pandemic. Kushner is quoted as saying “Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.” That is an entirely different meaning. Unlike the Ivanka billboard, the Kushner billboard could be taken as a factual statement about dead New Yorkers. It is designed to trigger anger and resentment against Kushner based on a statement that is falsely presented. As such, it could be a case for defamation and false light.
Turley concludes that the cases are not “frivolous nor easily dismissible.” There are two things I’m willing to bet on – The Lincoln Project will not yield to legal pressure (the group includes Kellyanne’s husband George Conway, a lawyer himself) and the Trump family will pursue lawsuits. On we go. Ten more days until Election Day.
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