When the New York Times published its blockbuster story chronicling two women’s on-the-record accounts of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, they basically guaranteed the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, would go to war. Trump's campaign lawyer sent a letter to Times executive editor Dean Baquet that very night threatening a lawsuit if the paper did not retract the story, accusing the paper of being "willing to provide a platform to anyone wishing to smear Mr. Trump’s name and reputation.”
The Times’ own general counsel David E. McCraw has now responded, saying, in effect, that Trump's reputation was already too horrible for anything the paper writes to possibly worsen it.
"The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one's reputation,” he writes. “Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women … Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself."
NYT declines to remove story, per letter from general counsel to Trump lawyer pic.twitter.com/5LBpjsCC3w— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) October 13, 2016
You can read the full letter here. McCraw’s letter is remarkable, in that it picks up on one of the most striking things about this scandal: Trump is lashing out at women and the press, and calling them liars, for accusing him of doing things he was caught on tape bragging about doing. His reputation, through his decades of public misogyny, is of someone who targets women, who harasses them, and who treats them unfailingly as sex objects, even when they’re children or his own daughter.
The Times’ report did not damage that reputation. It confirmed it.