Porn star Stephanie Clifford on Monday turned a tweet by President Donald Trump into a new lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, accusing him of defamation for mocking her allegation that she once was threatened to keep quiet about an alleged affair with him.
“In making the statement, Mr. Trump used his national and international audience of millions of people to make a false factual statement to denigrate and attack Ms. Clifford,” the lawsuit stated. “Mr. Trump knew his statement was false or was made with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of his statement.”
The suit marked the latest in a series of legal moves and countermoves that have put Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, at the center of a storm of publicity and celebrity over her alleged affair with Trump and a 2016 hush money payment from his lawyer Michael Cohen.
Clifford contends that when she first began talking to “In Touch” magazine about the alleged affair in 2011, she was told to “leave Trump alone” by a man in a parking lot in Las Vegas who threatened her in the presence of her daughter.
She didn’t report the incident or go public until this month, when she discussed it on TV and issued a sketch of the alleged tormentor. In response, Trump tweeted, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
The new lawsuit, filed by Clifford attorney Michael Avenatti, contends that Trump defamed her by essentially calling her a liar, and by suggesting that she accused a person of a nonexistent crime, which the suit claims would itself be a crime.
Since few people knew about the proposed story in “In Touch” magazine, it is “reasonable to infer” that the man who threatened Clifford was acting on behalf of Trump or his lawyer, and that Trump knew his tweet was false, the lawsuit stated.
“Alternately, if Mr. Trump in fact had no direct or indirect connection to the incident, then Mr. Trump necessarily acted in reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of his statement because he would have no way of knowing one way or the other as to whether the incident occurred,” the suit stated.
Clifford is seeking more than $75,000 in damages for being exposed to “hatred, contempt, ridicule and shame,” and physical violence that has forced her to hire bodyguards.
Clifford was paid $130,000 in 2016 by Cohen to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Trump. She has sued in California over the legality of the hush-money deal and also sued Cohen for defamation. The payment is also one focus of a federal probe of Cohen for fraud-related offenses.
Trump has denied an affair, and denied knowing about the payment. The White House and lawyers for Trump had no immediate comment Monday on the new defamation lawsuit.