Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper issued a public apology and admitted they paid “substantial damages” to First Lady Melania Trump after publishing an apparently falsely-reported piece on January 19 by American author Nina Burleigh. The article, titled “The Mystery of Melania,” was an excerpt from Burleigh’s new book Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women.
“We have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published,” the apology, which doubles as formal correction of the many mistakes, states.
The paper then provides a grocery list of the numerous errors: “Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family. Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.”
The article in question has been removed from the Daily Telegraph website, but is available on a number of other websites. In it, Burleigh even gets the date that Trump met his third wife wrong, writing that they met in 1996 when he was still married to Marla Maples.
“Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article,” according to the paper’s apology. “The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump. They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.”
When reached for comment by The Daily Beast, Burleigh noted, "I know everyone is terrified of Gawker slayer Charles Harder. The book has been out since October, and excerpted widely in various U.S. publications without a peep of objection. I stand by my reporting.”
Excerpts by Burleigh, who is the author of six books, have not endured the same scrutiny in the United States and elsewhere but the U.K.’s strict libel laws define defamation as “the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.”
In the U.K. and a number of European countries, libel can also be a criminal act, which is why publications tend to settle rather than face their accusers in court. In 2017, Ms. Trump also won a libel claim against the British tabloid Daily Mail, which issued its own apology as part of the undisclosed settlement.
In its apology, the Daily Mail wrote that they “published an article on 20th August 2016 about Melania Trump which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling.” They also admitted to paying out a settlement.
“We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologize to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her,” the Daily Mail wrote. “To settle Mrs Trump's two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs.”
It is not clear whether Burleigh will have to pay any of the undisclosed damages in the Daily Telegraph’s settlement.