Last summer, Donald Trump filed a $500 million lawsuit against Univision for breach of contract and defamation after the network dumped the Miss Universe pageant (of which Trump was, at the time, a part owner) following the racist unveiling of his presidential campaign. Univision wants the suit dismissed, arguing that Trump’s comments constituted a “cataclysmic” event that voided the contract, the New York Daily News reports. Trump’s lawyers, however, have argued that the remarks were “foreseeable”—that is to say, Univision knew what they were getting.
Trump has since sold his share of the pageant, but before announcing his presidential bid signed a five-year deal with Univision, which would air and co-produce the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Then, however, he made his deal with the ultraconservative, demagogue devil, claiming that “Mexico sends” immigrants across the border.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” He followed up days later by alleging that Mexican immigrants are “doing the raping.”
These statements cost Univision, “the leading media company serving Hispanic America,” quite a bit money, according to the network’s lawyers:
Its audience is predominantly Hispanic and largely Mexican-American. Univision had recently acquired the Spanish-language broadcast rights to the Trump-branded Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Through his diatribe, Trump destroyed the value of those broadcast rights, and neither Trump nor Miss Universe did anything to repair the damage in the aftermath of his speech. The widespread outrage elicited by Trump’s offensive comments was especially acute for Univision’s sponsors and predominantly Hispanic viewers, who made clear that they would not patronize a business connected with Trump.
But court documents filed by Trump’s lawyers last month state that his comments “could hardly be viewed as unforeseeable, let along cataclysmic,” especially given that he is “known throughout the world as a ‘straight-talker.’” In fact, the memo states, Trump has been saying racist things for at least a decade. For example:
As Mr. Trump explained in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on March 30, 2011, “[t]hey’re coming over, and they’re climbing over a fence, and there’s nobody within 10 miles — and they’re selling drugs all over the place, they’re killing people all over the place — and we’re not doing anything about it.” However, Mr. Trump cautioned that it was difficult to generalize the experience of all immigrants who had entered the United States illegally. “You’re going to have to look at the individual people, see how they’ve done, see how productive they’ve been, see what their references are — and then make a decision,” he said. “You have some great, productive people — and then you have some total disasters that probably should be in prison.”
“Today, Mr. Trump stands at the very top of the polls among Republicans in the race for the Presidency of the United States,” the documents emphasize. “As a result, Mr. Trump’s comments were clearly not cataclysmic and can hardly be viewed as unforeseeable.”
Trump’s defamation claim, meanwhile, is based on the fact that Alberto Ciurana, Univision’s President of Programming and Content, posted a photo to Instagram of Trump side-by-side with Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. This “equated Mr. Trump to one of the most heinous criminals in recent history,” the developer’s lawyers argue.
Of course, Univision is having none of that:
The actual depiction shows only two determinedly glum faces with similarly coiffed hair and the caption “No Comments.” To a reasonable viewer, the re-posted image conveys a tongue-in-cheek observation on Trump’s appearance—hardly novel, given that Trump has long been lampooned for his hairstyle. At most, the post could be construed as a criticism of Trump’s extreme and controversial opinions on race and national origin.
In a Hail-Mary attempt to keep this count alive, Trump offers up the bizarre interpretation that the post either accused Trump of himself committing “similar heinous acts” of racially- motivated violence or of “incit[ing] others to commit similar heinous acts.”
“No one but Trump’s lawyers could draw such a preposterous allegation from two undoctored photographs displayed side-by-side,” the filing states. What is more, Trump is currently in no position to argue that a critical Instagram post is defamatory.
“By announcing his noxious views on Mexican immigrants as part of his campaign platform, Trump invited vigorous debate and commentary—and he got it. The fact that Trump is too ‘thin-skinned’ to endure the kind of lampooning that has typified presidential campaigns since the founding of the Republic does not entitle him pursue a judgment and $500 million in alleged damages.”
The two sets of lawyers were due to appear before a judge on Wednesday this week to make oral arguments over Univision’s motion to dismiss, but the hearing has been postponed until later the month.