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Melania Trump Lawsuit Argues 'Once In A Lifetime' Chance To Make Millions Is Lost

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for the 60th annual Red Cross Gala at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday.
Susan Walsh
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for the 60th annual Red Cross Gala at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday.

It's a little icky all around.

First lady Melania Trump is seeking $150 million from the Daily Mail newspaper, charging in a lawsuit filed Monday in New York state commercial court that the outlet published damaging and unfounded allegations that she once worked as an "elite escort" in the "sex business."

Beyond demonstrating that the Trumps are more than willing to take the offensive when it comes to lawsuits, the complaint also reveals plans for yet another extension of the Trump empire, arguing that Melania's brand has "lost significant value" and has impacted "major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her."

And we're not talking about the White House Easter Egg Roll. The suit lays out the plan for Melania Inc.:

"Plaintiff had the the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance."

The complaint from Melania Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, seeks legal redress for "the commercial harm done to her, her commercial brand and her business opportunities."

Two things are striking about this document:

(1) The suggestion that the Trumps intended to capitalize on the Trump presidency ("a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world") by making money via new businesses (in addition to the many complicated ones the Trumps already operate), and

(2) Suing someone for scurrilous statements he has made about you ensures that the offensive statements will be repeated indefinitely. A lawsuit brings the unfounded allegations to the attention of an even wider audience than before.

Melania Trump recently settled a similar case against a Maryland-based blogger. According to the Daily Mail suit, the judge in the Maryland blogger case stated in court, "The court believes most people, when they hear the words 'high-end escort' that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute."

It's hard to find evidence of an extant thriving Melania Trump brand. The White House's biographical page of the first lady formerly touted her QVC line, but that text has since been removed. A search of QVC turns up no Melania Trump-branded products.

It's unclear whether Melania Trump plans to launch the product lines described in the suit, and how much money she would stand to profit if she did. One possible market indicator: Demand for Ivanka Trump-branded merchandise seems to have cooled, as retailers including Nordstrom, Belk, and Neiman Marcus have recently dropped her products from their websites.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Neiman Marcus as Nieman Marcus.
Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

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