Edward Ivari, the high-end hair-restoration guru whose circumstantial connections to restored-hair-haver Donald Trump were explored in a Gawker investigation last month, is now denying ever laying a hand on the presumptive Republican nominee’s mane. The denial—his first comment on the matter after repeated attempts by Gawker reporter Ashley Feinberg to ask him, and after an exchange of contentious legal letters in June—comes in a recent missive to Gawker from the office of Charles J. Harder, the proxy attorney of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who has acknowledged funding a covert legal campaign to destroy Gawker Media. The company is currently in bankruptcy.
The letter, received last week, states plainly that “Mr. Trump has never been a client of Ivari. Ivari has not treated his hair in any way, at any time.” In an apparent attempt at a conciliatory tone, Harder writes that Ivari—who, through Harder, has threatened to sue Gawker over the story—“has no issue with Gawker itself,” and pledges not to pursue litigation if Gawker accedes to his demands. Harder also claims that, unlike his other client Hulk Hogan, Ivari’s threats are not related in any way to Thiel.
Harder accuses Feinberg both of claiming that Ivari worked on Trump’s hair, and failing to seek comment from Ivari on that matter. Neither accusation is true. The letter also admits that Ivari did run an office out of the 25th floor of Trump Tower for 11 years.
To Harder’s first point, Feinberg never claimed that Trump had been Ivari’s client. Instead, her story analyzed a wealth of circumstantial evidence—including Ivari’s prior location in the Trump Tower.
(There is conflicting information regarding which floor Trump’s office occupies. Business Insider and Time say it’s on the 25th, which is what Feinberg’s original post went with. But the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post say it’s on the 26th, with Trump’s children’s office occupying the floor below. Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokesperson, declined repeated attempts to answer our questions about Ivari, but it now seems clear that Trump’s office has been on the 26th floor for decades. We have updated the original post.)
To Harder’s second point—that “Ivari was not provided an opportunity to respond” to the story—Feinberg provided Ivari with multiple opportunities to comment on our reporting prior to publication. “Ivari did not respond to multiple and persistent requests for comment,” Feinberg noted in the original article.
In fact, Harder’s newest letter diverges from, and in some cases contradicts, his earlier correspondence regarding Ivari. In his first letter, on June 9, Harder appeared to deny that Ivari had ever occupied the 25th floor of Trump Tower. It was “false and defamatory,” he wrote, for Gawker to claim that “Ivari’s New York location was inside Trump Tower—on the private floor reserved for Donald Trump’s own office.” In his June 24 letter, however, Harder admits that “Ivari leased the entire 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City from 1991 to 2002.” (Harder insists that “Ivari and Mr. Trump never shared office space.”)
Harder asserts another falsehood in his letter on June 24, writing, “Gawker ... leaped to the false conclusion that Mr. Trump was a client of Ivari.” That’s wrong. Feinberg never concluded or stated as fact that Trump was a client of Ivari. At the end of the piece, she wrote, “This is merely a thought exercise; like Donald Trump wondering aloud what Ted Cruz’s father was doing with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, I’m just asking questions.”
The rest of Harder’s letter takes issue with Gawker quoting from two lawsuits that had been filed against Ivari International. “Gawker’s ‘reporting’ makes no effort whatsoever to report the truth to its readers regarding Ivari’s extremely successful business and satisfied clientele,” Harder writes.
Harder’s protestation that Thiel is not involved in his efforts on behalf of Ivari is notable: It appears to be his first statement regarding Thiel. “I also will note,” he writes, “because Gawker raised the issue in its June 14 article, that Peter Thiel and Donald Trump have no role whatsoever with Ivari, including this law firm’s representation of Ivari.”
Gawker has never speculated that Donald Trump was involved in representing Ivari International. And it’s unclear what Harder means when he says that Peter Thiel has “no role whatsoever with Ivari” or Harder’s representation of him. In his interview with the New York Times, Thiel said he was funding an unspecified number of lawsuits against Gawker—not underwriting the retainer fees of Charles Harder’s clients. The mechanism by which Thiel has underwritten Harder’s efforts remains unclear. Ivari has not filed an actual lawsuit against Gawker, so there is not much for Thiel to fund. At least for now.
As to what exactly is defamatory about being associated with the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Gawker cannot say with any certainty.
June 24, 2016
Re: Ivari International, Edward Ivari – Demand for Retraction, Apology
Dear Ms. Dietrick:
As you know, this law firm is litigation counsel for Ivari International and Edward Ivari (collectively, “Ivari”), regarding the May 24, 2016 story at Gawker.com titled, “Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation” (the “Story”).
Your letter dated June 14, 2016 is an unacceptable response to my letter of June 6, 2016 which requested the removal, retraction, correction and apology for several false and defamatory statements made by Gawker about Ivari.
The following sets forth my response to your June 14 letter:
You characterize the Story as one based on an “investigation.” The very headline of the Story contains this word. Yet virtually no investigation was conducted. Gawker cites to an unknown “tipster” who supposedly sought treatment, and also notices that Ivari once leased space – fifteen years ago – at Trump Tower in New York City, and leaped to the false conclusion that Mr. Trump was a client of Ivari. That is not an investigation.
Ivari was not provided an opportunity to respond to any of the many completely false and defamatory statements in the Story before its publication.
Mr. Trump has never been a client of Ivari. Ivari has not treated his hair in any way, at any time.
The fact that Gawker would report that this occurred, without any facts to support the statement, shows a total reckless disregard for the truth, and a recklessness in its reporting practices.
Ivari leased the entire 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City from 1991 to 2002. Ivari and Mr. Trump never shared office space. If Mr. Trump moved his personal office into the 25th floor of Trump Tower, it was only after Ivari had already vacated the building.
My letter of June 6 identifies the numerous defamatory statements about Ivari that are extremely harmful to Ivari, on both a professional and personal level. The false information listed in points 5 and 9 of my letter are particularly defamatory.
Gawker has no basis to make such false statements about Ivari, and your letter of June 14 fails to provide any legal justification for making them, or continuing to publish them after your receipt of my June 6 letter. Please therefore do the responsible thing and remove the false statements identified in my letter, print a retraction and correction, and publicly apologize to Ivari for libeling them, and apologize to your readers for having misinformed them.
The false statements in the Story are based on two false claims against Ivari. Ivari took one of those claims to a trial and won the trial—thus demonstrating the falsity of the claims. The Court ruled: “Ivari did the intervention skillfully, carefully, diligently, and in a workmanlike manner. There was no breach of the contract.”
Gawker failed to mention this ruling in its reporting of the false accusations by the plaintiff. Gawker’s publication of the false accusations thus shows a total lack of regard for the truth and an intent to harm Ivari for no reason other than to print sensationalism and engage in defamation.
The other legal claim against Ivari was likewise false. Gawker re-published those false accusations without making any effort to learn the true facts. Moreover, even after you received my June 6 letter informing you of the falsity of the statements, you continued to publish them.
The fact of the matter is, Ivari was in practice for over 30 years in the Untied States [sic], and remains in practice today in Paris, and has one of the finest reputations in the industry. The fact that a very small number of its thousands of clients have voiced a complaint is hardly a justification for Gawker to intentionally seek to defame and destroy the company, based outright factual statements to the public. The vast majority of Ivari’s clients have been loyal for decades and are extremely satisfied by its services. Gawker’s “reporting” makes no effort whatsoever to report the truth to its readers regarding Ivari’s extremely successful business and satisfied clientele.
The Story, with its many false and defamatory statements, has been harming Ivari ever since it was published on May 24.
If Gawker intends for the public to believe it is a responsible journalistic enterprise, then it will do the responsible thing and remove all of the false statements in the Gawker article as identified in my June 6 letter, and this letter.
As you can understand and appreciate, Ivari must protect its good name and reputation and, in that regard, the false and defamatory statements in the Story, as identified in my letters to you, must be removed and corrected. Ivari has no issue with Gawker itself, simply its improper reporting in the May 24 article.
If the false statements identified in my letters are removed as soon as possible, then Ivari will not pursue legal action against Gawker and its individuals responsible. However, if corrective measures are not taken immediately, then Ivari will take all necessary steps to protect its rights.
I also will note, because Gawker raised the issue in its June 14 article, that Peter Thiel and Donald Trump have no role whatsoever with Ivari, including this law firm’s representation of Ivari.
Naturally, all of my clients’ rights are reserved and none are waived.
Very truly yours,
CHARLES J. HARDER
of HARDER MIRELL & ABRAMS LLP