Yesterday, Judge Otero (C.D. Cal.) dismissed Stormy Daniels’ (Stephanie Clifford’s) defamation suit she filed against President Trump in April (originally filed in SDNY, but transferred by agreement of the parties), applying the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA or Texas Anti-SLAPP statute). PDF Order
The dispute regarded an April 18, 2018 tweet by the leader of the free world that allegedly stated “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”, apparently referring to a sketch released by Daniels the day before. The sketch was purportedly that of a person who had threatened her in 2011. Daniels argued that the tweet attacked the veracity of her account of the 2011 threat and otherwise suggested that she should not be trusted and that she falsely accused an individual of committing a crime against her.
The court disagreed. Under the so-called Bentley/Milkovich analysis (referring to a 2002 Texas case and a 1990 SCOTUS case), the court held that
Mr. Trump’s tweet constitutes “rhetorical hyperbole,” which is extravagant exaggeration that is employed for rhetorical effect.
The court viewed Daniels as a “political adversary to the President,” and distinguished Mr. Trump’s one-off rhetorical comment from other cases in which sustained attacks on a person’s veracity may have been actionable.
Despite what was reported in the NY Times, Stormy Daniels was not ordered to pay President Trump’s attorneys’ fees. Rather, Judge Otero indicated that Mr. Trump is entitled to his attorneys’ fees under the TCPA, and a motion for such fees needs to be filed by October 29, 2018.
Daniels has filed a notice of appeal.