Haters Gonna Hate, Trump’s Gonna Sue
Donald Trump Sued Everyone but His Hairdresser
There might be one thing The Donald likes more than talking about himself: suing people, places, and things.
Future United States President Donald Trump sued Univision last week, after the Spanish-language network said it would not be airing Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants due to his claim that illegal immigrants are “rapists.”
Trump, who says Univision is suppressing his freedom of speech, is seeking $500 million in damages. Meanwhile, Univision is dismissing the complaint as “factually false and legally ridiculous.”
It’s a familiar predicament for Trump.
Over the past few decades, the self-proclaimed “very rich” businessman has sued people, businesses and entire cities and countries. He’s sued a newspaper, his ex-wife, a quaint business card store in Georgia and a Native American tribe. He’s cried breach of contract, government favoritism, fraud, and libel.
Trump sues when he is made to feel small, insufficiently wealthy, threatened or mocked. He sues for sport, he sues to regain a sense of control, and he sues to make a point. He sues as a means of saying “you’re fired” to those he does not employ.
But he sues, most of all, to make headlines and to reinforce the notion that he is powerful. Below, I picked some of the highlights, through a review of news coverage of filed and threatened lawsuits.
If you haven’t yet been sued by Trump, don’t worry, the odds suggest your day might yet come. I expect to be sued for this article.
People Donald Trump Has Sued
In 1988, Trump sued Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin for $250 million for fraud and interference with his contract negotiations with Resorts International Inc., an Atlantic City casino company. Trump ultimately sold his controlling interest in the company to Griffin, who died in 2007.
Trump sued his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, for $25 million in 1992–because she talked too much. Trump accused Trump of fraud and “willful, deliberate and surreptitious disclosure” of details relating to his finances, despite having signed an agreement that she wouldn't talk publicly about their relationship.
In 1993, Trump and his then-wife, Marla Maples, sued Chuck Jones, Maples’s former publicist, for $35 million. They charged Jones with extortion, theft, fraud, and harassment–after Jones had sued them, as well as Trump’s security staff and Maples’s mother. “The only stalking that I'm aware of was when Marla Maples was stalking somebody else’s husband,” Jones said of the countersuit at the time.
In 2003, Trump’s son, Donald Junior, was assaulted at the Comedy Cellar in the West Village. Trump responded by threatening to sue the men charged with the crime, Anthony Pozzolano and Joseph Derrico, from Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively. “Donald is soft spoken and wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Trump said of his son, according to the Mail on Sunday.
In 2006, Trump threatened to sue Rosie O’Donnell, then a co-host on The View, after she said he was bankrupt. Trump retaliated in an interview with The Insider, by labeling O’Donnell “disgusting, both inside and out.” He told People “Rosie will rue the words she said. I’ll most likely sue her for making those false statements—and it’ll be fun. Rosie’s a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice fat little Rosie.” He never sued, and ultimately, they seemed to make peace. In 2012, after O’Donnell suffered a heart attack, Trump Tweeted to tell her to “get better fast. I’m starting to miss you!” She replied, “well thank you donald—i must admit ur post was a bit of a shock … r u trying to kill me ? xx”
In 2011, rapper Mac Miller released a song called “Donald Trump,” which included the lyrics, “Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump shit; Look at all this money, ain’t that some shit?” Trump Tweeted at Miller to threaten a lawsuit: “Now I’m going to teach you a big boy lesson about lawsuits and finance.” Miller responded by calling Trump an “ungrateful dog!” before apologizing and asking him to be friends.
That same year, Trump threatened to sue MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell for suggesting he was worth less than $1 billion. Trump Tweeted that he was actually worth “substantially more than 7 billion dollars” with “very low debt, great assets.”
In 2012, Trump sued Miss USA contestant Sheena Monnin after she claimed in a Facebook post that the pageant was “rigged,” because the five finalists were chosen before the pageant took place. Trump called her “a beautiful young woman who had sour grapes because she wasn’t a top-15 finalist,” according to The Atlantic. A court ordered Monnin to pay Trump $5 million in damages.
In 2013, after Trump said he would donate $5 million to charity if President Obama would release all of his personal documents to the public, Bill Maher appeared on The Tonight Show and joked that he would give Trump $5 million if he could prove that his father was not an orangutan. Trump sent Maher a copy of his birth certificate. When Maher didn’t pay up, Trump sued him for the $5 million. He eventually dropped it.
The same year, Trump threatened legal action against Angelo Carusone, who had organized a petition to force Macy’s to stop selling Trump-branded products. Trump didn’t sue. Macy’s cut ties with Trump last week.
News Outlets Donald Trump Has Sued
In 1984, Trump sued the Chicago Tribune for $500 million after the publication’s architecture critic, Paul Gapp, wrote an item suggesting Chicago’s Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, would remain as such, despite Trump’s plan to build a taller structure in downtown Manhattan. Trump claimed the story “virtually torpedoed” his dreams, according to the Associated Press, by depicting his would-be tower as “an atrocious, ugly monstrosity” even though, Trump said, he hadn’t even yet hired an architect or drawn a plan.
Trump threatened to sue ABC in 2005, after he learned the network was planning to produce a two-hour biopic about him and his family. Trump said he would “definitely sue” if the film was “inaccurate,” according to The Washington Post, but “as long as it’s accurate, I won’t be suing them.” The biopic never happened, and he never took legal action.
In 2006, Trump sued New York Times reporter Timothy L. O’Brien, author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, as well as the book’s publisher, Warner Books, for saying Trump is worth $150 million to $250 million when Trump claimed, at the time, he was worth $2.7 billion. Trump said the error was “egregiously false,” according to Agence France Presse.
In 2009, the suit was dismissed. Trump now claims he’s worth “$8,737,540,000.”
Places Donald Trump Has Sued
In 1989, Trump threatened to sue Palm Beach County if it couldn’t figure out a way to muffle the loud noises coming from Palm Beach International Airport.
Trump sued New York State in 1995 when a video game, Quickdraw, based off the casino game Keno, was introduced in New York restaurants and bars. The game presented a rival to Trump’s Atlantic City casinos where Keno was played, but he claimed he was really just worried that the game’s presence in New York would bring “tremendous amounts of crime” and “destroy businesses in New York,” according to CNN, because gambling addiction would render residents unable to pay their rent.
In 1997, Trump sued the state of New Jersey. At the time, Trump wanted to prevent Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn from encroaching on his Atlantic City territory with the construction of a $330 million tunnel leading to Wynn’s very own resort. Trump filed suit against the state, claiming it was illegal for New Jersey to aid Wynn’s tunnel project in any way with money it collected from casinos. The Star-Ledger reported Trump claimed that if the state used casino funds to support the tunnel, it would be “taking money from widows and orphans,” the elderly, and people with disabilities.
In 2002, Trump sued New York City for $500 million, claiming that a tax assessor scandal had forced him to sell apartment in his 72-story Trump World Tower near the United Nations for below market prices.
Trump sued the town of Palm Beach, Florida. in 2006 for $10 million after he was cited for violating zoning codes by flying a too-big (for non-patriots) American flag over his club, Mar-a-Lago. The lawsuit claimed “a smaller flag and pole on Mar-a-Lago’s property would be lost given its massive size, look silly instead of make a statement, and most importantly would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s and the Club’s members’ patriotism,” according to the Associated Press. Trump promised any damages awarded to him would be donated to Iraq war veterans. In 2007, Trump and the town settled. The Tampa Bay Times reported the town dropped the fines, and Trump donated $100,000 “to various charities for veterans of the war in Iraq, the American flag or veterans’ hospitals.”
In 2011, Trump sued Scotland. Trump claimed the government had assured him a planned offshore wind farm would never actually be constructed, and so he built a golf course and made plans for a neighboring hotel. When the wind farm was built, Trump sued the government. He ultimately lost.
Businesses Donald Trump Has Sued
Trump purchased Eastern Air Lines’s shuttle service in 1988 for $365 million and planned to relaunch it as “Trump Shuttle.” But a problem arose—a different company, Trading and Finance Corp. Ltd., was already using the name. In 1989, Trump sued for the rights to the name.
In 2008, Trump sued Crescent Heights Diamond, a real estate developer, because, Trump said, they had licensed his name for a 70-story building in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, and then cut him out of the profits.
In 2011, Trump sued H. Pixel International Trade Ltd., an Israeli company he discovered was using his name and likeness on vodka bottles without his consent. Trump has over 700 trademarks and as of 2011, his name was commercially protected in 80 countries.
In 2014, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, which he holds a 10 percent stake in, to remove his name from the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza casinos in Atlantic City, which he said did not live up to his standard of quality.
In 2003, Trump announced that he planned to sue the Eastern Pequots, a Native American tribe of less than 1,000 from southeastern Connecticut. Trump claimed he had spent close to $10 million helping to promote the tribe’s brand in exchange for the right to negotiate the tribe’s casino agreements. Ultimately, the tribe selected a different developer to handle their deal, which was the source of Trump’s ire.
Brandy Zadrozny contributed research.