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Trump files $475m defamation suit against CNN over coverage since 2020 election

Former US president suggests he may also act against Congressional committee investigating January 6 attack on Capitol by Trump supporters

In this file photo taken on December 15, 2015, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
In this file photo taken on December 15, 2015, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

WASHINGTON — Former US president Donald Trump sued CNN on Monday, accusing the cable television news network of defamation and seeking $475 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focuses primarily on the term “The Big Lie” about Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud that he says cost him the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

He accused CNN of waging a campaign of “libel and slander” against him because it “fears” he will run for president again in 2024.

“CNN has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source — to defame the plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically,” Trump’s lawyers said in the 29-page complaint.

In a follow-up statement laced with outrage, Trump said Monday that “in the coming weeks and months we will also be filing lawsuits against a large number of other Fake News Media Companies for their lies, defamation, and wrongdoing,” notably regarding coverage of the 2020 election.

Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie,” a phrase with Nazi connotations, has been used in reference to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January 2021.

“It is intended to aggravate, scare and trigger people,” he said.

“The ‘Big Lie’ is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf,” the complaint said. “The phrase is not taken lightly and is not bandied about blithely.”

The repeated use of the ‘Big Lie,’ it added, is a “deliberate effort by CNN to propagate to its audience an association between the plaintiff and one of the most repugnant figures in modern history.”

Trump repeatedly attacked CNN as president, which resonated with his conservative followers. He has similarly filed lawsuits against big tech companies with little success. His case against Twitter for knocking him off its platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, US Capitol insurrection was thrown out by a California judge earlier this year.

Numerous federal and local election officials in both parties, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the election fraud he alleges.

The 76-year-old Republican also said his team “may bring appropriate action against” the congressional committee currently investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters, saying the panel refused to probe “the massive Presidential Election Fraud” which he insists occurred.

Trump, who requested a jury trial, had a caustic relationship with CNN and other major news outlets like The New York Times during his term, branding them “fake news” and repeatedly raging against them on social media.

The former president, who has hinted repeatedly at another White House run, accused CNN in the lawsuit of involvement in a “concerted effort to tilt the political balance to the Left.”

He said CNN has tried to “taint” him with a “series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler.'”

In a July statement, Trump had threatened to sue CNN if the network refused to retract allegedly defamatory statements made about him.

The lawsuit contained excerpts from CNN’s response to Trump in which it stood by its reporting and declined to make any retractions.

Trump said he filed the suit to “vindicate his reputation as a dedicated public servant and to establish CNN’s liability for the harm it has caused to his reputation by the false, defamatory, and inflammatory mischaracterizations of him.”

New CNN chief Chris Licht privately urged his news personnel in a meeting more than three months ago to refrain from using the phrase because it is too close to Democratic efforts to brand the former president, according to several published reports.

TOI staff contributed to this report.

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