Donald Trump has long labeled CNN — easily the most biased and fundamentally dishonest news outlet since the days of Joseph Pulitzer — “fake news.” Now, the president is taking that case from the court of public opinion to a court of law.
In a demand letter sent to CNN on Wednesday, an attorney working for the president outlined his intention to sue CNN for its willful misrepresentation of itself. For years, CNN has told viewers, advertisers, and sources that it is an unbiased, straight news outfit. That’s a lie, and the president’s lawyers believe it actually violates the federal Lanham Act’s prohibitions on false and misleading advertising. (RELATED: Trump Lawyer Sends Letter To CNN Seeking Payment For Damages Incurred By The Network’s Alleged Bias)
CNN routinely gets caught red-handed in one of its many bald-faced lies, its“journalism’” is often so obviously anti-Trump that it can’t be denied, and its “straight news” anchors consistently veer so clearly into the realm of opinion — always anti-Trump — but there has never been much recourse for the president aside from reminding the public of CNN’s blatant partisanship with the “fake news” label.
As obvious as the network’s bias is to any fair-minded observer, there was never any concrete legal evidence that CNN was actively lying to its viewers by presenting itself as a real news network when, in reality, its primary purpose has been to attack the president, and work surreptitiously with his Democratic opposition to undermine his presidency.
That’s no longer the case, however, thanks to new evidence from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, collected in a months-long undercover investigation. Now the whole world can see exactly how CNN executives are deliberately constructing the warped version of reality their network presents as “objective fact” every single day.
CNN staffers were caught on tape admitting that their network “is totally left-leaning” while pretending that’s not the case. The employees say it’s an unwritten rule that conservatives and even centrists are not welcome at CNN, that they are well aware of how biased anchors such as Don Lemon are, and that CNN President Jeffery Zucker has a “personal vendetta” against the president of the United States. (RELATED: Gohmert: The Media Turns Fake Whistleblowers Into Heroes While Real Ones Get Punished)
Most damning of all, though, are their repeated claims that it’s their job to constantly pretend that all of the above is not true. They have to act as though the Democratic talking points and wild speculation they put on screen is straight, unbiased reporting.
The Project Veritas videos prove that CNN’s executives are well aware that their outlet’s partisan agenda is directly at odds with the image they sell to advertisers and the general public, and have gone to great lengths to conceal their deception. Armed with direct evidence of that, Trump is going to ask the courts to legally declare CNN fake news.
There is precedent for this type of action against a purported news outlet. In 1993, for example, actor Clint Eastwood took The National Enquirer to court for falsely claiming to have an “exclusive interview” he never gave. Eastwood won, and the Lanham Act was a central basis of that outcome.
Because of America’s broad press protections under First Amendment precedent, it is very difficult for a public figure like the president to reach the standard necessary to win a court judgment for defamation or libel when media outlets lie. But when they lie to their own viewers and advertisers about the true nature of their business — the very basis of their mission as a news outlet — a media network such as CNN could be found guilty under Lanham Act claims.
It should be stressed that this case is not about any monetary damages that might be awarded. This is purely about vindicating the president and exposing CNN’s core, organizational and institutional bias and dishonesty once and for all by asking a jury to determine that — legally — CNN is fake news. (Related: diGenova: Nothing Constitutional About An Impeachment Process With Secret Evidence And Secret Witnesses)
CNN has been conducting itself as a partisan propaganda outlet for years while hiding behind its ludicrous “facts first” slogan. Trump has been calling the network out for its fake news the entire time, and now that CNN’s cover is blown wide open for the world to see, he’s going to make that label official.
Joseph diGenova served as the United States attorney for the District of Columbia from 1983 to 1988 and as an independent counsel. He is a founding partner of Washington, D.C. law firm diGenova & Toensing, LLP.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.