Melania Trump suit from 'Gawker-killer' lawyer claims harm to 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to make millions

A lawyer for Melania Trump argued in a lawsuit filed today that a since-retracted Daily Mail article claiming she once worked as an escort harmed her odds of establishing “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.” In a sense, the lawsuit is all about a purported right to cash in on being the First Lady. Because that's what being the First Lady is all about.

The lawyer representing Melania in this case is California attorney Charles Harder, who was once called ‘the rich man’s favourite tool for assaulting journalism.’ Mr. Harder's high-profile clients include former wrestler Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, who won a $140 million invasion of privacy verdict against Gawker last year, at the behest of Trump supporter and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

So now, Charles Harder, Gawker-killer, is representing Melania in this case against the Daily Mail.

Melania Trump v. Mail Media Inc, Supreme Court of The State of New York. Filed 2/6/17.

Snip from the Washington Post's coverage:

The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value” as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit noted that the article had damaged Trump’s “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder. (...)

The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

Neither Harder nor the White House responded to requests for comment late Monday.

Harder, L, and Bollea, R, in court. [Reuters]

From an earlier Newsweek profile of Charles Harder, and what he might be up to in the Trump era:

Harder bristles at being called Thiel’s peon, though one could have a worse patron than the billionaire founder of PayPal. "How is what Peter Thiel did different than what public interest organizations do?" he wonders. That’s a fair comparison, though not an entirely accurate one. When, for example, the Sierra Club sues the California Coastal Commission, it does so openly and, presumably, for the public interest. Thiel’s desire to sue Gawker out of existence stemmed from his need to exact revenge over a 2007 post that outed him. That post may have been of questionable journalistic value, but it passed legal muster, so Thiel waited for Gawker to make another mistake.

What news organizations are they hovering over now, waiting for a mistake large enough to hang a news-killing lawsuit on? I'm sure we'll all find out soon.

As Judd Legum at ThinkProgress writes, the legal strategy here is parallel with Donald Trump's apparent strategy in managing his brand during the presidency.