Melania Trump wants to champion free speech — while suing bloggers and newspapers for defamation
Melania Trump will pursue two potentially conflicting initiatives as First Lady, if her stepdaughter doesn’t claim the honorific title for herself.
The Slovenian-born Trump announced shortly before the election that she intended to focus on cyberbullying, despite being married to a notorious cyberbully, although she offered few details about what she would do.
The National Enquirer quoted an unidentified source this week who said Trump would pursue “an unprecedented push to protect freedom of speech,” in addition to her “campaign to eliminate cyberbullying.”
According to a National Enquirer "source," Melania Trump will be pushing to "protect freedom of speech." pic.twitter.com/yoFJhmUkTx
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) December 28, 2016
“Melania grew up under a communist regime where citizens could not speak their minds — or be themselves — without fear of a knock on their door in the middle of the night,” the source told the tabloid. “It’s what she loves most about America — and it’s the issue she will make her own.”
There’s an inherent tension between preserving free expression and cracking down on speech that’s “too mean and too rough,” as she described cyberbullying — but Donald Trump and his wife have a record of hostility toward journalists and their constitutional protections.
Donald Trump vowed during the campaign that he would “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue reporters and publications that “write purposely negative and horrible and false articles.”
The president-elect and his companies “have been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and sent countless threatening cease-and-desist letters to journalists and critics,” reported the Media Law Research Center.
But he’s never won a speech-related case filed in public court.
Melania Trump is currently involved in a speech-related lawsuit filed against The Daily Mail tabloid and a 70-year-old blogger.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and now a senior advisor to the president-elect, said last week that Melania Trump is moving forward with a $150 million defamation suit against the Maryland blogger and British newspaper for reporting that she had worked as an escort.
Both the blogger and the newspaper retracted their articles and published apologies, but Conway said Trump was not planning to drop her lawsuit, even after the inauguration.
Melania Trump has hired the same lawyer who won a $140 million judgment for Hulk Hogan against Gawker, which drove the website out of business.
The president-elect’s wife also expressed disappointment with a “dishonest” magazine profile on her, and the writer was targeted with anti-Semitic abuse — which Melania Trump said the reporter had “provoked.”
There’s some question about how much of a role Melania Trump, who plans to stay in New York City until at least the end of her son’s school year, will play in her husband’s presidency.
Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and executive vice president of development and acquisitions of The trump Organization, is reportedly eyeing an office in the White House that’s normally reserved for the First Lady.
Edit: A previous version of this story identified Ivanka Trump as Melania Trump’s daughter-in-law. We regret the error.