In the simplistic and narrow world of people like Donald Trump, one finds his enemies and just roots them out. Everything is personal—an assault on the ego. Thus when his wife Melania was identified as a one-time call-girl (with questionable immigration status) by somewhat dubious but not entirely unreliable sources, the Trump reaction was to demand an apology or there’d be a lawsuit.
Trump likes to sue. He views the act as conflict resolution in much the same way that normal people view discussion and compromise as conflict resolution. Personally, I don’t care about Melania Trump, her previous “work experience,” or how she got to America—though her deportation with the “rapists and drug dealers” would be amusing. (And the irony of her facing deportation after her husband had questioned Obama’s birth for a decade is delectably ironic.) What I do care about is this supposition on the part of Trump that he can drag reporters into court to suppress news he doesn’t like. It’s what dictators do: Qaddafi, Hussein, Assad, Kim Jong-un, et al.
Donald Trump is (and it pains me to admit it) a public figure, and as such he faces ongoing scrutiny. So does his family—from the moment they took the stage at the convention last month. I hope we’re all above slandering spouses and children of public figures, but we can’t expect legitimate journalists to look the other way until they’re sure a story lacks legitimacy. Trump’s overreaction to the call-girl accusation actually lends credence to it: for the most part public figures laugh off ridiculous accusations. Trump laughs all the time—when asked to share his tax return, or to deny accusations that he’s a racist or a misogynist. (I love black people and they love me! I love women…, etc.) His recent threats speak volumes.
(And just an aside: without my doing any formal research, I’m going out on a limb here and declare that Obama never threatened a lawsuit against any of the birthers. He knew that criticism “comes with the territory.”)
So even though I don’t have a particular interest in Melania Trump, I do care about the freedom of journalists to gather news and report it without the ongoing threat of lawsuits. In Trump’s childish vision of America, all news stories will be filtered through the White House propaganda office and the sycophants he hires to fill it. If you doubt that, I’m afraid you haven’t been paying attention.