(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump sued CNN for defamation, accusing the network of smearing him -- including with frequent comparisons to Adolf Hitler -- to undermine a potential run for re-election in 2024.
CNN has tainted Trump’s image by using “ever-more scandalous” labels to describe him in broadcasts, including “racist,” “Russian lackey,” and “insurrectionist,” culminating in false comparisons to the late Nazi leader, according to a suit filed Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Comparing Trump to “arguably the most heinous figure in modern history” is evidence that CNN had “actual malice” toward him -- the required threshold for proving defamation against a public figure, Trump’s lawyers claim.
Trump, who has long clashed with CNN over its reports on his behavior and policies, is seeking at least $475 million in damages.
Trump hasn’t shied away from suing his perceived enemies since leaving office, though he’s had limited success. His suit accusing his 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton and dozens of others of conspiring against him with allegedly fake Russia claims was tossed out by a Florida judge last month.
“The time has finally come to hold CNN responsible and legally accountable for their willful deception and defamatory statements made about me and both, directly and indirectly, my strong, devoted, and patriotic supporters,” Trump said in an emailed statement.
CNN declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The former president’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged -- and a subsequent violent attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters -- led to widespread comparisons of Trump to authoritarians like Hitler, while Trump’s regular criticism of immigrants has led to claims that he is racist. Notably, Trump has also drawn criticism for accusing other people of being racist, including New York Attorney General Letitia James and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, both of whom are Black women investigating him.
The complaint points to several examples of Trump allegedly being compared unfairly to Hitler, including a special report called “The Fight to Save Democracy” by CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria that aired on Jan. 9, 2022, about a year after Jan. 6 insurrection.
“America has vanquished demagogues before. So how do we do it now?” Zakaria said in a promotion for the report, according to the complaint.
Trump alleges the report went too far far because “a focal point of the report is a discussion of the ascendancy of Hitler and comparisons to the plaintiff, interspersing discussion of Hitler and Nazi Germany with footage of the plaintiff.”
Zakaria said in the report: “Let’s be very clear. Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler,” according to the complaint.
The case is Trump v. Cable News Network Inc., 0:22-cv-61842, US District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).
(Updates with damages sought by Trump)
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