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Trump sues ABC News and George Stephanopoulos for defamation

President Donald Trump talks with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos before a town hall at National Constitution Center, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Then-President Trump talks with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos before a town hall at National Constitution Center in 2020. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Former President Trump is suing TV journalist George Stephanopoulos and ABC News for defamation for saying he raped advice columnist E. Jean Carroll.

On a March 10 edition of "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," the anchor said Trump was "liable for rape" during his interview with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Stephanopoulos was pressing Mace, a rape victim herself, on how she could rationalize supporting Trump's 2024 presidential candidacy.

Trump's lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Miami, said the jury in the Carroll case found him liable for sexual abuse — not rape — and that Stephanopoulos defamed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee by using the term.

A jury ruled in January that Trump must pay Carroll $83.3 million in damages after finding Trump liable for defamation, the second case related to a 1996 incident that occurred when the two met in a New York department store.

In May, jurors rejected Carroll's allegation that she was raped but found Trump responsible for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, along with defamation, and awarded Carroll $5 million in damages. Trump, who denied that the incident occurred, repeatedly mocked Carroll over her claims.

Carroll claimed that Trump penetrated her with his finger and penis. The jury did not side with her latter allegation.

New York State law previously defined rape as forced vaginal penetration by a penis. In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that

broadened the definition of rape to include other forms of nonconsensual contact.

Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw the earlier defamation trial, said in a July 17 filing that the state's technical meaning for rape before the law was changed is "far narrower than the meaning of 'rape' in common parlance, its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes and elsewhere."

“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’" Kaplan wrote.

Nancy Erika Smith, a New Jersey-based employment and civil rights lawyer who has handled numerous sexual harassment cases, said Kaplan's comments undermine Trump's claims.

"It's a completely frivolous lawsuit," Smith said in an interview. "ABC should get attorney's fees."

Read more: Q&A: ABC's George Stephanopoulos on the midterms, #MeToo and his future at ‘Good Morning America’

Trump's suit cites how Stephanopoulos himself reported that Trump was not liable for rape when he reported on the verdict of the previous Carroll case on May 10.

The suit also noted that the headline on an ABC News online story about the Mace interview first used the word "rape" and later was changed to "sexual abuse."

Trump's suit seeks unspecified damages.

ABC News and Stephanopoulos have not commented on the suit.

The tense "This Week" interview was widely shared on social media. Mace took umbrage at Stephanopoulos' question, claiming he was "rape-shaming" her by bringing up her own experience, which she has publicly discussed.

Trump's anger over the Stephanopoulos interview apparently crept into the Oscars ceremony on May 10. Host Jimmy Kimmel read a rant Trump posted on Truth Social during the telecast. The post criticized the performance of Kimmel, a relentless Trump critic, and took a shot at Stephanopoulos as well.

"Get rid of Kimmel and perhaps replace him with another washed up, but cheap, ABC ‘talent,’ George Slopanopoulos,” Trump wrote.

Trump has previously sued media outlets, including the New York Times and CNN, with no success.

Trump sued the New York Times over its investigation of his finances, which led to the recent New York civil court ruling that has him on the hook for $454 million. The suit was dismissed in March and Trump had to reimburse the newspaper's legal costs.

In 2022, Trump sued CNN for $475 million, claiming the news network was waging a campaign against him by booking guests critical of his policies and speeches. The case was dismissed in 2023.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.