Melania Trump attended a hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, saying she wanted to show how seriously she takes her lawsuit against a Maryland blogger who posted rumors she once worked as a high-end escort and may have had a breakdown during the presidential campaign following the plagiarism incident at the Republican National Convention.
The wife of President-elect Donald Trump was not required to attend Monday's hearing -- at which a trial date was scheduled for November -- but her lawyer said she wanted meet the judge and opposing counsel, The Washington Post reported.
The future first lady is suing Gaithersburg resident Webster Tarpley, who publishes the political blog Tarpley.net, and British website the Daily Mail Online for libel.
In Tarpley's Aug. 2 post, he wrote there were rumors in Manhattan Melania Trump was having an "apoplectic fit" after her convention speech and the president-elect would try to hide her breakdown, according to the complaint. He also wrote she allegedly didn't work regularly as a model before she met her husband but as a luxury escort and feared former clients would reveal that about her.
The Daily Mail reported claims from a Slovenian magazine Trump's New York modeling agency also operated as an escort service for wealthy clients, the complaint said. The Daily Mail also cited a book by a Slovenian journalist alleging a previous modeling agency she worked for in Milan was "something like a gentleman's club," according to the complaint. The book also questioned when and where the Trumps met.
The complaint denies the allegations made in the Tarpley and Daily Mail posts, calling them "attacks on her reputation" to lower public opinion of her. The posts damaged "her business, career, reputation and actual and prospective economic relationships," according to the complaint.
The suit seeks a minimum of $75,000 from each defendant. Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in his defamation suit against the now-defunct website Gawker, previously said the "defendants' actions are so egregious, malicious and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are estimated at $150 million," NBC News reported.
A status conference is scheduled for June 27, followed by a settlement/pre-trial hearing Setpt. 9. The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 6.
Both Tarpley.net and the Daily Mail have since retracted their posts about Trump.
The Daily Mail's extensive retraction -- published Sept. 1, the day the complaint was filed -- said the article "did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true nor did it intend to state or suggest that Mrs. Trump ever worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business,'" and included denials from her spokesperson and the New York modeling agency.
Tarpley.net published the following statement on its homepage:
The Morning Briefing published on tarpley.net on August 2, 2016 referenced unfounded rumors and innuendo regarding Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, and her life prior to her marriage. The August 2, 2016 morning briefing asserted that it was widely known that Melania Trump previously worked as an escort and that Mrs. Trump was in fear of revelations that she used to work as an escort. The briefing also stated that multiple unnamed sources stated that Mrs. Trump was in a state of apoplectic tantrum, was suffering from a full-blown nervous breakdown, that both Melania Trump and Donald J. Trump feared the revelations coming to light, and that Mrs. Trump’s condition was negatively affecting the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. While the tarpley.net editors, writers and contributors did not generate said rumors, the briefing in question was not diligent in fact-checking or maintaining a healthy distance between innuendo and fact.
As such, Webster G. Tarpley, as editor of the content that appears on tarpley.net, hereby officially retracts the August 2, 2016 morning briefing in full and apologizes to Mrs. Trump for any duress and harm she may have endured as a result of the contents of the August 2, 2016 morning briefing.