Trump’s defamation suit against ABC News, George Stephanopoulos could be anything from ‘slam dunk’ to ‘dud’

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Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is suing ABC News and George Stephanopoulos for defamation after the “This Week” host said several times on air that the former president was “found liable for rape,” but whether he has a legitimate case is up for debate. 

“The statement that Trump was found liable for rape is a lie,” Fox News contributor Leo Terrell told Fox News Digital

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., a rape survivor, says she felt personally attacked when Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to President Bill Clinton, asked during a heated interview this month how she could support former President Trump when he was found “liable for rape.” 

Stephanopoulos used the term “liable for rape” 10 times during the interview, but a federal jury in New York decided that Trump was not liable for rape but was liable for sexual abuse and defamation in the 2023 civil trial of advice columnist E. Jean Carroll vs. Trump. 


Donald Trump, George Stephanopoulos

Donald Trump is suing ABC News and George Stephanopoulos for defamation.  (LEFT:  Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images, RIght: (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images))

“Not withstanding the fact that Donald Trump is a public figure and the standard for defamation is much higher. ABC News and George Stephanopoulos cannot find a civil or criminal verdict for Donald Trump for rape,” Terrell said.

“Let me be clear and simple,” he continued. “There is not a single legal document on Earth that finds Donald J. Trump liable for rape.”

Terrell, a practicing member of the California Bar since 1990 who provides legal analysis across Fox News platform, feels ABC News and Stephanopoulos will “have to write a very big check” to Trump.

“In my legal opinion, Donald Trump has a slam dunk case for defamation against ABC News and George Stephanopoulos,” Terrell said. “If you notice, the other left-wing networks are now very, very careful not to use the phrase ‘liable for rape.’ I’m sure their corporate attorneys advised them not to do so.”


Nancy Mace George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos said former President Trump was found “liable for rape” multiple times during a recent interview.  (Screenshot/ABC News)

Terrell noted that ABC News and Stephanopoulos “cannot claim ignorance,” and had the money and resources to research the validity of a rape claim prior to the Mace interview. 

“The whole purpose of George Stephanopoulos’ statement was to intentionally harm and hurt President Trump’s chances for the presidency,” Terell said. 

Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, feels differently. 

“It might be a good move for Trump politically, particularly in that it highlights the hypocrisy of Stephanopoulos, who was a part of President Clinton’s ‘bimbo eruptions’ project in the 1990s. But legally, Trump’s defamation suit would be a dud,” McCarthy told Fox News Digital. 

“The jury in the first E. Jean Carroll trial did not find that Trump did not commit rape. Rather, the jurors found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that rape occurred, but found that Trump did commit sexual abuse,” McCarthy continued. “Moreover, Judge Kaplan, in assessing the jury’s verdict, reasoned that the jurors must have believed Carroll’s testimony that Trump at least ‘digitally’ penetrated her. Although that does not fit the narrow N.Y. statutory definition of rape, Kaplan elaborated that it does fit the common understanding of rape.”

McCarthy added: “Given A — the fact that the jury did find Trump liable for sexual abuse, and B — Kaplan’s conclusion, which he explained in a public ruling rejecting Trump’s post-trial motions, I don’t think Trump can show that Stephanopoulos defamed him or that he suffered any real harm from Stephanopoulos’s comments.” 


George Stephanopoulos in New York

George Stephanopoulos rose to fame working as a communications specialist in President Bill Clinton’s White House.  (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Florida, claims Stephanopoulos’ statements are “false” and were made with “actual malice or with a reckless disregard for the truth given that Defendant Stephanopoulos knows these statements are patently and demonstrably false.” The court document then noted that a jury “expressly found that Plaintiff did not commit rape.” 

The suit notes that Trump representatives contacted ABC seeking a retraction following the interview, but the Disney-owned news outlet failed to apologize or correct the record. 

“Since making such false, malicious, and defamatory statements, many news and press outlets have continued to quote Stephanopoulos by wrongfully broadcasting that Plaintiff was found liable for rape,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. 

Social media was also polarized, as many Trump supporters took news of the lawsuit as a victory, while his critics were quick to dismiss its validity.

Attorney George Conway, who is among the mainstream media’s most outspoken critics of Trump, said the former president is essentially suing “because Stephanopoulos repeated what a federal district judge has said repeatedly in written opinions,” and feels the move will backfire. 

“By bringing this lawsuit, Trump will only bring more public attention to what he did to Carroll. And he and his lawyers may very well be—in fact, ought to be—sanctioned,” Conway posted on X. 

ABC News declined comment regarding the lawsuit when reached by Fox News Digital. 

It seemed to be business as usual for ABC News, as Stephanopoulos appeared on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, the morning after the lawsuit made national headlines. The network previously has stood by Stephanopoulos. 

“George did his job by asking meaningful questions that are relevant to our viewers,” an ABC News spokesperson told Fox News Digital about the Mace interview prior to the lawsuit being filed.


Trump and his campaign have filed a series of defamation lawsuits against news organizations in recent years, with suits against The New York Times, CNN and Washington Post being dismissed after judges said essential elements of defamation were not met. 

In 2020, Trump’s reelection campaign settled a defamation suit against an NBC affiliate in Wisconsin after it ran a political ad containing a doctored video that made it seem like Trump had called the coronavirus a “hoax.”

Mace has stood by Trump and called for Republicans to stop appearing on the Disney-owned network until Stephanopoulos is held accountable.

“Bob Iger needs to get control of ABC News. Actions like this are the reason Americans have lost trust in the press. ABC leadership should hold George Stephanopoulos accountable immediately for intentionally lying about Donald Trump during our interview – or pay a steep price for his actions. Republicans should also stop going on ABC News until Stephanopoulos is held accountable,” Mace said in a statement. 

“The verdict in question was plain as day. The jury had the opportunity to find Trump liable for rape, and they chose not to,” she continued. “Partisan Democrats like George Stephanopoulos, who masquerade as the face of supposedly impartial news organizations, are the chief reason for the vast decline of Americans’ trust in the media. For far too long, Democrat partisans in the press have put politics over facts, and talking points over truth.” 

Mace also blasted Stephanopoulos as a “a stain on the profession of journalism” in the scathing statement. 

“He’s not fit to hold a microphone, let alone pose as a beacon of truth,” Mace said. 


ABC News declined to comment on Mace’s remarks. 

Fox News Digital’s Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.

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