A Pasadena appeals court Friday affirmed a judge’s decision to dismiss adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ libel lawsuit against President Donald Trump, finding he was merely offering an opinion when he tweeted that her claim of being threatened to keep quiet about their alleged affair was “a total con job.”
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Los Angeles federal judge’s 2019 ruling, agreeing with Trump’s lawyers that the president has a right to tweet any opinion or overstatement and that Daniels failed to show he acted with malice.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed a stranger threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 and warned her to keep quiet about an intimate relationship she allegedly had with Trump five years earlier, before he was elected the nation’s chief executive.
The actress and her former attorney, Michael Avenatti, released an artist’s sketch of the man who she claimed threatened her, and a Twitter user posted a comparison between Daniels’ ex-husband and the alleged attacker.
Trump tweeted that, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
In the appellate ruling, the court stated that under the law of Texas, where Daniels lives, a statement that interprets facts “is an opinion, and, as noted, statements of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.”
“Viewed through the eyes of an objectively reasonable reader, the tweet here reflects Mr. Trump’s opinion about the implications of the allegedly similar appearances of Ms. Clifford’s ex-husband and the man in the sketch,” according to the ruling.
Daniels, 41, has said she had sex once with the married Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year afterward. She detailed the alleged affair in her book “Full Disclosure,” published two years ago.
Trump has denied any sexual relationship with Daniels.